Related to:
July 26 2006 03:45 PM

It is often difficult for managers in production areas like mail or shipping to keep their employees motivated. There are several factors that lead to this including relatively low pay, working in what is often a low status department in the organization and, consequently, high turnover of personnel. On top of this, we are now faced with another phenomenon that works against us � the rapid rate of change in the technologies we use to do our jobs. It�s absolutely essential in this environment that we motivate our employees to deal with these obstacles by instilling pride in their jobs.
How do you instill pride? By using P.R.I.D.E.
Participation by all
Reserve discipline
Increase Education
Distribute rewards based upon merit
Enjoy your job
Participation by all
Secret missions almost always fail. Without proper support from everyone involved, it is difficult, if not impossible, for a project to succeed. In the absence of solid facts, rumors take hold as truths, even when they are based on untruths. People rarely fear what they understand, instead they fear the unknown. When everyone understands the common goal, their chances of achieving success rise significantly.
I was given the responsibility of completely overhauling the distribution center of a corporation � no, not to make minor cosmetic changes but to literally tear down what was there and rebuild from scratch. Naturally, there was a good deal of trepidation among employees � who would be told to move, who would be replaced, who would be laid off? Will we able to use the new machines and equipment that will be brought in? What if we fail?
My first priority was to face these concerns head on and with face-to-face discussions. I held departmental meetings with the employees and laid out the plans for the next year. I informed them that I would look for volunteers for the new positions and would bring in trainers and send people to classes. With at least some of the unknown out of the way, people could relax and concentrate on their jobs. Today, we have successfully morphed into something radically different from the old organization.
Reserve discipline
Obviously, for any organization to succeed, there must be a set of rules followed by everyone. Just as obvious, there must be consequences for not following those rules. As a former military officer, I fully support respect for authority and adherence to standards. But, as General Dennis Reimer points out in his book, Soldiers Are Our Credentials, �Discipline is not the fear of punishment for doing something wrong, but a faith in the value of doing something right.� Fear is the least successful motivator. Some people will follow rules only because they will suffer some kind of punishment if they don�t, but most do the right thing simply because it�s the right thing to do.
All rules should be equitable and equally enforced. Don�t let someone violate a dress code because she�s a good worker, or he�s a nice guy. And always follow this rule: praise in public, critique in private. When dealing with a problem, take that staff member into an office or conference room where you can discuss the problem away from the other employees.
As a supervisor of a small center, I was often challenged by a particular employee. One day, he chose to do so in front of his peers. Instead of taking him on in front of everyone, I had him follow me into a conference room. With no audience, we had an open, honest, no-holds-barred conversation. After our tempers subsided, we went over what was and was not acceptable. We also talked about what he wanted to do with his job and his life. We tied opportunities for training with performance, and in the end, we both succeeded.
Increase education
I once had a bumper sticker that read, �If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.� Nowhere is that more true than in a production environment. Our employees cannot be expected to perform their jobs correctly if we do not provide them the training to do it. This simple fact applies not only to your machine operators but also to supervisors and managers.
Most companies have training programs; take advantage of these. Talk to your human resources managers about what courses would be best for your staff. Become actively involved with associations. Association meetings and trade shows are very effective educational tools. Not only will your staff be exposed to new ideas and training, but they will also meet with peers and learn the power of networking.
When I was a newly hired manager, the comptroller went over my budget with me. I asked how much I had for training. The answer was that there was no budget for my staff. I replied that I would be over budget by $10,000 on that line, as I was going to take along people to various conventions. Although upper management was hesitant, eventually the request was approved. Now, it�s standard procedure. In my last review, my boss expressed his pleasure with the growth of the staff and the impact training had.
Don�t forget one-on-one mentoring. This is not to be taken lightly but given serious consideration. You should reach out to people who have shown they can do more and offer them that option. If they do not know that help is available, then how can they take advantage of it?
Distribute rewards based upon merit
It is only human nature that we are attracted to some people more than others. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as we don�t let it get in the way of our being effective managers. Favoritism breeds contempt and will lead to a decrease in morale.
It is important you say your thanks publicly. Walk over and shake an employee�s hand for a job well done. But make sure you mean it � insincerity is easily detected. False praise will cause more harm than no praise at all. Also, use tangible awards whenever possible. They do not have to be large dollar amounts; it could be something as small as buying lunch. Also, make sure that there are group awards for group efforts. If your loading dock crew worked hard to get everything done, make sure the entire staff participates in the award. Throw a pizza party on a Friday afternoon or buy everyone company shirts.
Enjoy your job
Hey � lighten up! Sure we put in long hours and often feel undervalued and overworked. But we do work in a great profession with some great employees. We started this article by talking about the behavior of your employees, but what about your own? Are you fun to work for? No one wants to work for an ogre (at least no one I know).
Your attitude sets the tone for the entire workplace. If you show up unmotivated and undisciplined, your shop will reflect that. Your work habits set the standards your employees will follow. You must come prepared each day to show you care about doing the best you can. As General Reimer points out elsewhere in his book, �Leadership is fairly requires us to know the details of our profession, to truly care and focus on our soldiers and to lead by example.�
And don�t worry about the occasional bad day � you have plenty of time to make up for those. It is important not to dwell on those moments, but seize the next opportunity to change the tide. Learn from your mistakes, and then move on. Every day is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform at the best of your ability.
You are not going to turn every single employee into a superstar performer, but you can develop a cohesive team that is prepared to face the challenges of a production environment. By using P.R.I.D.E., you will instill pride in your shop. The results will show in your staff�s performance and in your customers� satisfaction.
Mark M. Fallon is president of The Berkshire Company, a consulting firm specializing in mail and document processing strategies. For more information, please visit The Berkshire Company at