Volume 50, Issue 4 - April 2015


Build a Stronger Company
How Are You Communicating With Your Employees?

by Paul Bieber

Most glass business owners I speak with spend more time and money communicating with customers than with their employees. There are websites and Facebook pages to maintain, architects and specifiers to visit and, of course, customers. These efforts help the company gain business, make weekly payroll and leave a little left over for you, the owner.

However, I suggest you make your employees, rather than your customers, the fuel that runs your engine. Employees are in front of your customers all day, doing the work they need, and
putting a face on your company.

Company Builders

Your employees can simply be hourly workers or they can be ambassadors of your glass company. How? Try the following; I promise they will help you build your company:

• Clearly share company goals with your staff. Let them know where you want to go so they go in the same

• Give employees feedback on where you are in reaching goals. You don’t have to share bottom-line financials, but you should share sales figures. Read every customer letter—those with praise and the ones with problems yet to solve—to all employees. Share details about credits given to customers for problems, as well as your bad debts. Help them understand that it’s tough to run a good business;

• Have a quarterly meeting with each department or, if you can, the whole company. Talk about what’s coming up, such as the purchase of a new truck, other investments in the works or new products that you’ll be adding;

• A safety discussion is always the most important part of this meeting. You can never cover it often enough;

• Set quarterly goals in productivity, attendance or reductions in materials and supplies. These are items your team has direct contact with. Review these goals for the last quarter and give a small reward such as a gas card or supermarket gift certificate to your team for their successes.

"If you are doing
meaningful annual
reviews, you have
the chance to grow profitably."

Effective Reviews

Now comes the tough part: communicating one-on-one with your employees. A manager or supervisor should have eight to ten direct reports. Less than this and the manager isn’t being used effectively; more than this and he’s spread too thin. Part of being a leader is doing annual employee reviews. Without this, you won’t grow your organization with good people. If you’re doing meaningful annual reviews, you have the chance to grow profitably. A review won’t improve the work of a glazier who can’t read a tape measure, but if you properly prepare for a review, you should see if his scrap rate is too high and know you have to teach him to read his tape better.
Here are some annual review tips:

• Schedule reviews on workers’ employment anniversaries rather than your fiscal year. Give employees a blank copy of the review and ask them to fill it out as if they were reviewing themselves. When you actually meet, compare your reviews; only discuss the areas where you disagree. I’ve found that most employees who are honest rate themselves lower than you will because they know they can improve;

• When you rate an employee below acceptable standards, always have suggestions for improvement, as well as a timetable to follow up on the suggestions;

• In a 45-minute meeting, spend ten minutes going over the previous year and then discuss planning for the coming year. There’s no sense in rehashing last year. It’s over. The future is more important; and

• The annual review is the single most important communication a supervisor has with an employee. Prepare carefully; a supervisor’s supervisor should read and comment on all reviews prior to the employee meeting. n

the author
Paul Bieber has 37 years’ experience in the glass industry, with C.R. Laurence and as executive vice president of
Floral Glass in New York. He is now the principal of Bieber Consulting Group LLC and can be reached at paulbaseball@msn.com. Read his blog on Tuesdays at http://usgpaul.usglassmag.com.

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