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You reap what you sow

How do we expect workers to be productive if they don’t have a job description, if they don’t have targets to work towards, if their performance is not assessed? In other words, if they don’t know what is expected of them? And how does management supervise workers without setting targets, without knowing how they spend their time? And how productive can we expect workers to be if their wages are too low or if the workplace is not safe and healthy? Not very much I suspect. So, there is work to be done, trying to put a balanced supervisory management system in place. Otherwise, don’t really expect much from your workers. Instead expect them to look for other job opportunities elsewhere.
Let us look into how we can motivate workers to perform better and thus to increase their productivity. Point of departure here is the realisation that a business will be no better than the people who work in it.  Without capable and motivated employees, we don’t get anywhere. Sometimes I walk into offices and I see employees doing all sorts of things, except their job. They are chatting on the phone with friends, knitting in the corridors, reading the papers and that is not what we want. I know of a company, which produces finished items for export. In fact, it produces on contract for a foreign client and the contract stipulates the number of items to be produced per month with a less tan 5% rejection rate. Quantity and quality of the production have thus been agreed upon. Meeting the numbers has not been a problem but the quality is. The rejection rate has reached 7% over the past few months, resulting in items being returned. This in turn worries the company’s management. After all, the workers should be able to produce better quality. They have the experience. What seems to be the matter? Talking to the workers, they agreed they could do a better job and admitted that they spent production time talking while they should be concentrating 100% on their job. There seems to be a motivation problem. As it turns out, the workers are promised a bonus if the rejection rate is less than 5%. The problem is that the workers never received a bonus, while they expected it. They didn’t believe that the rejection rate was in fact 7%. Management told them so but never substantiated this with evidence from the client. The workers had developed the idea that management didn’t want to pay the bonus and simply made up the 7% rejection rate. As a result, they developed a negative attitude towards the targets that were set for them.
For workers to be motivated they must be positive about the following three things:
They must believe that they can do what they are asked to do, that they are capable.
They must believe that they will be rewarded for what they are asked to do.
They must value the reward they receive; wages must be fair.
In the example above, the workers are indeed capable, and they are satisfied with the wages they are supposed to get for their work. The problem is with the second point. They suspected that their bonuses were being withheld. They didn’t trust management anymore. As it turned out, management rightfully withheld the bonuses but never provided the information to substantiate this. Lack of information and dialogue between management and workers resulted in poor motivation. Sharing information and discussing the work to be done will help boost motivation instead. Ask yourself: What experiences might my workers have been exposed to that would make them not to trust management and believe that they will not be rewarded for what they believe they have earned?
A few words about the capability of workers: Small companies usually do not pay much attention to training of their workers. This often reflects in low quality of the goods and services, reducing demand and limiting the price that can be charged for them. Poor training results in poor quality. Remember that learning on the job alone results in learning the bad habits as well, which is not what we want. You reap what you sow. I know that training workers produces results only in the longer term, but it may be well worth its while. When management takes a more positive attitude towards training and deliberate steps are taken to provide workers with new skills, the business may grow. Increased competition may be a reason to take training more seriously.
In conclusion, to increase production we must bear the following in mind:
Labour productivity is key.
Supervision, motivation and training are factors in control of management that can increase productivity.
Successful businesses get most out of their employees by putting a balanced structural and considerate supervisory management system in place.
Motivation of workers is associated with their ability to do something, the reward for doing it and valuing the reward being offered.
Training employees will reflect in better quality of goods and services.

Ton Haverkort


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