The Magic Question for a Motivating Manufacturing Work Environment

By Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert, Professional Speaker, Coach

In the 2013 book, “The Enthusiastic Employee,” Sirota Survey Intelligence reported that after extensive research with “8.6 million employees in 412 private, public, and not-for-profit organizations in 160 countries…we find declines in [employee] morale in 9 out of 10 companies after the ‘honeymoon’ period.”

The next line in the book is even more important “It is not just that the novelty wears off; the decline – and its deleterious impact on performance – is a consequence of management practice.”

If employees are not showing up on the job with the right attitude, right motivation, or the right work ethic, it’s not their fault. It is management’s.

Either you hired the wrong person or you hired the right person that has been influenced by an already tarnished work environment.

“For the first 15 years of my tenure if someone had the right technical skills and the right work ethic but they were a curmudgeon, we would look the other way,” said Steve Pomeroy, President of Schatz Bearing in Poughkeepsie.

With unemployment at record lows and with younger generations less inclined toward manufacturing jobs, finding qualified team members is more challenging than ever. For that reason it may be tempting to do what Pomeroy did.

But, Pomeroy recommends against it, “If I could turn back the clock I would have invested more in the people side of things and in creating the right culture. When you get the right people they bring ideas to the table so you don’t have to feel like you have to bring people along.”

The question you may be asking is “how do you create that engaged workforce that contributes ideas to the company and is motivated beyond the job they’re being paid for?”

Surprisingly, the answer is simple.

You ask.

By asking you give your people the one thing that they, and most human beings crave more than anything, even more than more money in their paycheck.

Autonomy!

There are various levels of autonomy in a manufacturing environment and you should look to provide it in as many ways as possible, such as how, when, where and with whom people do their job. Plus, the more input you allow them to provide into the operation the more your people will feel they have autonomy over how things are done.

As soon as you ask the right question you will begin transforming your culture from one that is stagnant to one that is standout.

What is that right question?

Very simply this, “what is getting in your way of doing an even better job?”

The skeptics reading this are going to say the answer will always be “more money.”

That won’t happen as much as you think. Overwhelming research shows that if you are paying a fair, competitive wage with reasonable benefits, money is not the problem.

Research continues to show that employees don’t leave companies they leave their managers. They also leave the work environments those managers create.

The first step in changing your culture is to ask that question. It will instantly show your people that something is different and you want their input.

This will do three things:

  • For the ones with the right attitude they will embrace it and immediately look for ways to improve the company;
  • For the ones that don’t yet have the right attitude, it will provide an outlet to express their need and frustrations allowing you to begin working with them to develop the right attitude, or
  • You will learn quickly who is unable to make the transition to a team player with the right attitudes and you can look to make changes.

The key is setting expectations for how people will show up and engage in the work environment.

“Over the last 15 years,” Pomeroy added, “if you don’t have the right attitude to be on our team we’re going to ask you to turn it around, and we’ll work with you, but at the end of the day we’ve walked away from situations where it wasn’t working.

“It was painful in the short term but long-term it shows our people that we’re trying to create the right environment.”

Here’s the 3A Process that will begin to transform your environment into a highly motivated, engaged place to work:

Step 1: Ask the question “what is getting in your way of doing an even better job?” (you can do this privately one-on-one, or in small group sessions)

Step 2: Absorb the answers and evaluate your response to each.

Step 3: Act.
This means responding to each and every suggestion you hear. Do not allow any of the questions to fall into a black hole.

Answer each with one of four responses:

  • Yes, we can do this, and we will by (insert date).
  • This is a good idea, but the timing isn’t right and here’s why. I give you permission to remind me to look at this again in (insert date/number of months).
  • Give me more information and details and lets look at this deeper.
  • No, this is not something we’ll ever be able to do and that is because (provide a business case answer with as much transparency as possible).

If you’ve never asked for input, or if you have but people saw their ideas go into a black hole, it will take time for people to open up.  Give them that time by continuing to ask and answer whatever comes up.

By working this process you will be giving your team members an opportunity to contribute in ways they never imagined possible, and you’ll get ideas that will truly move your company forward faster than ever.


Skip Weisman is a speaker, author, and business coach working with business owners and their teams to create championship company work environments where employees take ownership of their jobs and help company leaders creating winning workplaces that are more positive, more productive, and even more profitable. Learn more about Skip and his work at www.YourChampionshipCompany.com

Share