Strategy 3. Training needs plant-floor examples -- not generalizations -- for effectiveness: In the past, 10 of the companies used inexpensive training sessions they had downloaded from their trade associations' websites. The poor results showed supervisors could not translate the generalizations of the canned training to the specific problems in their own plants.
Before beginning our training sessions, we spent several days interviewing and observing plant employees. The goal: uncover what workers needed from their supervisors for better performance, and how they perceived the guidance they were currently getting.
It quickly became clear that the typical workers out on the packing lines wanted two things from supervision: First, help in solving on-the-job problems; and second, approachable supervisors who did not denigrate them. These comments became mini-case studies for supervisors, who recognized them as issues from their own departments. Here's what some supervisors said after the training:
"I was surprised when I heard my workers were often short on the trays for the 16-oz. packages. They had told me before, but I thought that was just an excuse. Now I see I should have been checking more often if supplies were OK. It really helped our downtime."
"I found one wrap-around tray packer wasn't working properly, and was a bottleneck slowing up the whole line. I thought the operator was just goofing off. It showed me I've got to pay more attention to complaints."
LESSON No 3: Training is more effective when supervisors understand the issues discussed are not theoretical examples from some book, but real-life problems from their own departments. When actual in-plant issues -- like adjusting the speeds of the top case sealers and case erectors or teaching employees how to calibrate the volumetric feeders -- are used in the training, supervisors realize it is no theoretical exercise but a way to help them deal with their problems. Subsequent interviewing provides feedback on how the training improved their results.
- Strategy 1: Working with rather than against the natural authoritarian leadership style
- Strategy 2. Helping foreign-born supervisors manage their departments rather than simply giving orders to their workers
- Strategy 4. Using goals to encourage teamwork in a diverse workforce
- Strategy 5. Creating a sense of pride by setting benchmarks to measure supervisory improvement