I’ve got one employee, is eager to learn, works 20-30 hours a week while also full time college-ing to be an engineer. He’s also kind of timid, or unsure of himself, although he subtly hints at wanting a raise. I not so subtly say things like, “learn how to set up a shaper” or “study wood-web” or “take these prints from the project we’re working on home tonight and study them until you understand what is going on.” I think what he wants though, and what I have wanted to have in place for years but have yet to put in place are real benchmarks to be able to point to and say "when you can do this, i will be able to pay you that more.” Is this a good strategy, have you done it and what does it look like?
It sounds like you are correct in understanding that you need the employee to add value to what he is doing in your place of business. Even better is the fact that when you teach the employee just what that means, he will gain an insight into his role as an employee, that may have been missing before. This can be a win/win situation for both of you.
Paul is dead on correct, vague wont accomplish anything if you start communicating without your having already established just what makes a employee more valuable. I myself often refer to the concept of a shop employee being a laborer, then a apprentice, then a skilled employee, then a skilled employee with broader responsibilities, possibly at some point a foreman or supervisor. As a small shop, this lets me set target goals for my 2 employees, while giving them a understanding of hat is expected.
Paul- over three careers and my childhood that is exactly how every employer and parent talked to me with regards to my own improvement. I never have really thought much about it. Can you suggest a better way?
Gary- yes, something along those lines. Do you have that system in place and what does it look like for you?
Mitch- I understand your system of calling people by their skill set/ experience level but do you have any measured or listed or whatever protocol for how they attain those classifications?
I think the AWI and the CMA have started something like this.
I would start by creating a organizational chart. Which may be laughable in a smaller shop, but none the less orients a person to the shop. E.G. the simple orientation of giving a worker a work bench does this. When a new guy would start working I would watch where he ate lunch. If he was not given a bench he would take lunch in his car. If he was given a bench he would take lunch at his bench. I.E. he had an area that was his. A small thing but it gives the new guy a starting point to establish himself.
The organization chart is NOT a command chart. It is about dividing up responsibilities and aligning them so as to create agreement on who does what. Otherwise you have overlapping duties and crosscurrents, etc.
You might take a look at the e-myth on how they do this with lists. Tim talks about management by lists although there is a LOT more to management than that, lists are a part of it.
This is what I've been watching spin out of AWI for years, though I'm unclear if it has ever really got off the ground: http://woodworkcareer.org/credential_landing/passport/
We have started to implement this, though it will not be exactly like the article. What we have done is sat down and identified all the skills shop wide that are required for us to be successful at our business. Then we rated each employee against those. We then assigned a points system to each rating, and internally compared compensation levels to the sum of each employee's skill levels.
This was beneficial, because it gave us a different view of who is strong at each skill, and where our overall weak points are. Any employee looking to grow is encouraged to grow in those areas to strengthen the company as a whole.
"Learn how to set up a shaper". Is there one way to do this? One shaper model to learn? Whose shaper is available for practice? Will any help be available? Is the help offered in a way that doesn't intimidate? What happens if I make a mistake? What if I get hurt? What if I ruin work? When do I learn? Am I getting paid for this? Will I get paid more if I learn how to set up a shaper? How much?
"Take these prints home and learn them." Learn what? Are we going to try to build this project from memory tomorrow? Am I expected to reproduce them on my own paper? What if I don't understand what I'm looking at? Who can I ask? This doesn't look simple, I'm supposed to learn them overnight? Am I getting paid for this? Looks like work to me.
"Study wood-web" What's wood web? Study what? The ads? The galleries? Which forum? Does he want me to look for another job? Wow, some of these jobs look pretty good. Hmmm, maybe he wants me to quit. I must suck at this job. Maybe I can switch to plumbing. My buddy is an apprentice and he's making bank while they train him.
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