I could use a little input on a shop morale issue. I operate a 2000 square foot shop with myself in the office for the most part and two guys on the shop floor. They are both young guys who are dependable, honest, hard working, concerned about their work, etc. Knowing what others go through in terms of employee reliability, I consider myself fortunate. They are compensated very well for our area of the country.
One of them, though, is not very happy. He is an outgoing individual who needs some social interaction in the course of his day. The other is basically an introvert who is quite content concentrating on his work, not being concerned about discussing "what I did after work yesterday" or anything else for that matter. Not negative... just quiet.
I don't always help the situation, as I am not always the most patient individual. So, the not so happy fellow is thinking that he needs to leave and find a job somewhere that will not leave him feeling so isolated. There are a few things I know I can do, but not many. First, since everything in the shop comes from the top down, I can try to be more pleasant, helping maintain a pleasant and positive atmosphere.
Another thing is that even though I feel classical music (yeah, I know... but I like it) adds to a concentrated shop environment, I think I should let the guys choose the radio station from now on.
Also, I've talked with the quiet guy and asked him to try to add something to the conversations in the shop when he feels comfortable doing so. Also, I've considered bringing in a 3rd person, letting personality be a bit more of a guide than usual, and actually have someone in mind. However, we get a lot of 50 hour overtime weeks and both guys like the paychecks. Bringing in another person would hurt them financially unless I gave significant pay raises, which would be on top of the expense of a third person.
Beyond that I'm at a bit of a loss. I know that I can talk with my social guy more often, but in the course of the typical busy day, I have my hands full running the office end of the business. So… what do you all think?
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor F:
I think I would explain to them (since they are young) that they will both have to learn to get along with different personalities. Given your workload, there should not be a lot of time for chitchat anyway. Not to mention the risk factors involved. If they are truly keepers, I think you can find a little more time in your schedule to stroke an ego now and then. Try to get them involved in more decision making. Bottom line is they have to find their own way to happiness.
In my business, I allowed individual radios/players with ear phones if it did not interfere with performance and safety. You can broadcast their music, but continue to control it. Keep controls in office - but play it for them. Split it up to please everyone's taste. Overtime for business is not a good thing, and should be eliminated when possible. A third person is good if you have the work. Overtime pay is good in a paycheck, but having to work it is bad and it rags people out in their least productive hours.
You can't please everyone and the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, especially for young people. Often when they leave, they'll want to come back and work for that "sensitive" employer.
And the employees love to be around their chief/leader, so participate as a worker when you can. One other thing - if they hang around during lunch and you have a space for that, a breakroom with a little tv/vcr/dvd helps entertain. Even cartoons are fun to laugh at. Checker board, game board, cards, chess, coffee maker.
As a two man shop, I once had a hand that frankly said he wanted more social interaction than I could give him (I'm the quiet type with the classical). He went on to become a medical tech OB-Gyn and gets all the social interaction he can handle.
I also have had to cultivate patience and positive interaction, after years of being a cynical, psychotic, solo woodrat. I now enjoy my daily rounds and positive comments and believe they help create and keep a positive attitude that is easy to live with. I don't watch sports, so can't talk that talk, so we end up talking about whatever they want. I just shut up and they talk. I share all the positive customer comments and take guys out to the finished jobs to see how it all looks, and even hand out shop photos for them and their family. We also have flexible hours - totally honor system - that help with coordinating child-care and chauffeuring the kids around.
I personally would be wary of giving up control of the radio. Here we would have chaos and more dissension over that than anything else. I limit what is listened to, and threaten to bring in my opera recordings if there is any complaining.
Seriously though, you are the leader, and there is nothing wrong with that, and good employees will be okay with it. They can/should trust you to do what is best for the company as a whole.
I take 'em to Rangers ballgames (Cowboys games if they've been "bad" :), fishing/hunting if they're into that, and treat 'em to Pizza Hut on Fridays. I try to let them off early so they cash their checks and have some fun. I do require Saturday work, but usually from 8-noon or 2pm.
It helps, but there are other jobs that pay way more than I can, so retention is near impossible. Also, finding just one person that will work every day is a challenge.
If your employee has already expressed concern about needing some social interaction, my guess is it may only be a matter of time before he decides to make a career change. He may be hanging on for the paycheck, not really knowing what else to do. If you give him some added responsibility that may give him a social outlet, why would he not ask for a pay increase?
Bringing in a third party, unless really needed, may blow up with everyone annoyed - lack of overtime, personality clashes... maybe not, though. I also don't think one more person will cure his social need.
As far as the radio, let them pick the channel - they are the ones making you money (hopefully). If there are issues with stations and constant changing of channels, then step in. I think classical would slow my production, but that is just me. My guess is that you would probably only hear it here and there with machines going anyway. But there is nothing like a good beat to get you through the late afternoon drag.
Those guys that take their employees out to lunch, buy coffee... That stuff goes a long way in my book. Having an employee know he is appreciated only helps in the long run.
We rotated the radio station - Monday me, Tues George, Wednesday Frank, etc. Overtime more than two days a week seemed to not work well.
The only point made in the thread that I have to disagree with for my situation is that “employees come and go.” I agree that is often the case. However, for what we do, it can take one to two years to train someone to be fully independent in the shop. After that kind of investment, I do everything I can to keep them here.
Contributor F, you are absolutely right in saying “they have to find their own way to happiness.” One cannot make another person happy with their life, but I could try to make the atmosphere here in the shop more pleasant. Your comment on decision making is something that we have already discussed as well. To help in that area, I need to do less “micro managing.” This may lead to some bad decisions along the way, but in the long run the results should end up being more positive then negative.
Contributor D, the radio really isn’t a problem here. Both guys are pretty comfortable with most any music, but as contributor P says, “there is nothing like a good beat to get you through the late afternoon drag.” So, we will be changing radio stations. Also, you are right with the “grass is greener” diagnosis; it is an issue I have already had to deal with in the past.
Contributor B, I really like the idea of muffins in the morning. I think I’m going to set up a petty cash box so one of the guys can stop on the way in each morning to pick up coffee, muffins, juice, etc. We can then make sure we all sit around the break area together for the 10 am break. I will need to try and make myself leave the office and participate in this. I know of a few shops where the guys play cards during these breaks and have always thought it was a foolish idea. I’m beginning to see this differently though. Also, we do have a TV by the lunch table. However, I think motorcycles are a bit of a stretch for me… I never did have much interest in them.
Contributor S, you are really right about sharing the positive customer comments. I’ve done that some, but they don’t hear them all. As to the flexible hours idea, that can work some places and not in others; it depends upon the people involved. It works here as the guys know they can come and go if they need. As I said when I started this thread, both my guys are 100% dependable and can be fully trusted not to take advantage of a situation. I am fortunate in this. They are also very good with the 50 hour week and we really don’t lose efficiency at the end of long days. Plus, when we run the 50 hour weeks (7:00 to 5:30 M-F), they take one day of their choosing and leave at 4:00 (so it’s really a 48 ½ hour week).
Contributor M, if I do bring in a third person, it would have to be someone to take some of the office load. The person I have in mind is a good candidate for this.
Contributor L, the Rangers game trips are a great idea. I’m thinking that once every month or so, a Friday out of the shop as a group would be a really good thing. You know, a Red Sox game, a day on the ski slopes, a movie, etc. It could be helpful in getting the introvert to have something to talk about with us.
Contributor C, purchasing responsibility is a novel idea for me. I’ve always handled that end of things. Perhaps I could let him handle ordering the lumber, etc. I’ll give that some more thought.
Contributor T, the vocational school resource is a good one; I got my introvert fellow right out of high school at the local Vo-tech 3 or 4 years ago. As to my guys teaching a new employee, I have tried this and found it to be a difficult task for them. I still hope, though, that if I do bring in a third person, they will be able to do some of the teaching.
Contributor P, we actually do occasionally go out to lunch together. It has been a hit and miss sort of thing, though, occurring when I happen to think of it. It should become a regular thing, perhaps once or twice a month.
Contributor I, both guys know they are appreciated. I can be a hard nut, though, and maybe need to take a closer look at showing them they are respected as individuals and woodworkers. Telling someone they did a good job is easy and shows them you appreciate what they’ve done. Showing someone they are respected, though, is a more subtle and complex process. I’ll have to think more about this.
Contributor J, I don’t think I would need to worry about the quiet guy being made to feel an outcast to the group with a third person in the shop. I could be wrong here, but I think having more people around would actually help to draw him out of his shell a bit. As to installation, we do not do any. So, for better or worse, we are all locked up here in the shop together.
Contributor M, you’re right. Both guys need to feel they are important to the operation of the business.
Again, thank you all for responding. Whatever the outcome with the current situation I think I can make the shop a more enjoyable place to be as a result of these suggestions.
Some guys will stick and some won't. They either want to do the work or they don't. Younger guys are more likely to move around. I think contributor P is about right: "If your employee has already expressed concern about needing some social interaction, my guess is it may only be a matter of time before he decides to make a career change." I think guys are looking for a future and stability. If the shop is growing, it is easier to retain employees.
If you can create a "game," it helps. I would assign quotas or targets and if he (individually) hits the target, he gets a bonus for that week. Or as a group, if the quotas were hit for x number of weeks, then take everyone fishing or skiing or whatever they wanted to do.
At the end of the day, morale comes from production, not perks. I used to watch my guys at break. If they were all sitting separate and not talking, I knew production was down. If they were all sitting together talking and upbeat, production was up. Check it out.
The perks are/should be used to enhance a group/team effort in the business. Let them know you are doing X activity because we did well on this job. I also don't think it should be overdone (daily muffins/coffee) because then it is routine and not looked on as a perk. The perk should be a reward for doing well and they should understand that. I don't think a perk will keep anyone from leaving, but I do think it will increase productivity and morale if they know they are appreciated.
As far as the questioner is concerned, if he walked out with a box of something and had coffee with his guys and talked to them, that might go a long way. What does it cost to try?