Increased employee productivity will help your company survive this recession.



Last November, our unemployment reached 10.2 percent. Our news media provided all kinds of excuses for President Obama’s political promises and lack of job creation with his $787 million stimulus package. You can take their political opinions and comments with a grain of salt because they can announce any kind of information and quote surveys whether the information is true or false.

What caught my attention was a comment about productivity made by a politician who probably never owned a profit-making business or even put in an honest day’s work in his entire life.

His remark was, “We don’t want to initiate anything that would increase productivity because that would use up the available work load faster and increase the layoffs and unemployment rate.”

It is easy to understand a politician’s job-saving advice to slow down or create unnecessary work situations to those employees being paid with our tax dollars. Government agencies do not have to bid or compete for their work. When they exceed their allotted budget, they simply increase our taxes.

Let’s hope none of your employees even heard that ridiculous claim, let alone believe it. Unfortunately, employees with jobsite experience have already heard similar remarks when work is slow and their job is in the finishing stages:
  • Slow down and make it last. They don’t have another job for us to go to when we’re done.

  • Slow down and make room for our buddies. This job is on a tight schedule and they will have to hire more help to get done on time.

This discouraging peer pressure is very difficult to fight or resist by your newer employees. If they don’t slow down their productivity, they will be called a company man, a butt kisser or other negative names for what your veteran employees consider to be an uncooperative, bad person.

Fortunately you, who believe in our free enterprise, profit-making democracy, know that slowing your employees’ productivity will definitely lead to layoffs.

Measure Performance By Keeping Score

Companies that measure each employee’s performance and keep score are able to motivate or lay off any individual who is not carrying his load. (For more on this subject, visit www.PMmag.com. All of my 2004 Plumbing & Mechanical articles under the “Want More in ’04?” umbrella dealt with keeping score of each employee’s work to evaluate performance.)

Let’s start with piece work. Each employee’s production is measured or counted to determine the size of his paycheck. None of that negative peer pressure or dirty name-calling will convince your employees to slow down.

You gain another benefit with piece work: If employees produce poor-quality work that must be recreated, they must do it on their own time. If your employees are working for an hourly wage and produce poor-quality work, you must pay them by the hour for replacing it.

Fair piecework rates are reasonably easy to establish on repetitive work. For small tasks and unusual conditions, most companies maintain an hourly wage rate to reward their employees properly.

Although it is not as commonly used, my personal recommendation is the 6-8-10 daily scorecard for each jobsite employee’s productivity. This is based on the “eight-hours-of-actual-work-for-an-eight-hour-paycheck” principle.

Every morning before starting time, your foreman reviews what each employee must produce to receive an “eight for eight” on his time card. If an employee does not agree, he may be assigned a different task.

Even if you do not use an “eight for eight” scorecard, I’m sure you can see the positive result of your foreman discussing a fair eight hours work for each employee every morning.

At the end of the day, your foreman and each employee review that day’s performance and rate it as six hours, seven hours, eight hours, nine hours or 10 hours of productivity. No extra paperwork is required; simply write a small six, seven, eight, nine or 10 beside the hours worked that day on employees’ time sheets.

Here again, you can see the positive outcome of reviewing and discussing each day’s performance, even if you are not keeping score.

Employees’ time sheets go to your payroll clerk first to establish that employee’s weekly paycheck. Your foreman’s productivity ratings are then sent to your personnel department to accumulate for a monthly review.

At the end of the month, these ratings are totaled for each employee and the average should be eight. That means your employees are being paid properly for their performance.

If an employee’s average is nine or 10, he should receive a raise in pay to match that productivity.

However, if an employee’s average is six or seven, you should give him a warning to improve next month’s performance or receive a cut in the eight-hour average wage rate.

Deliver The Right Message With Effective Communication

But there is even more you should do to help your employees understand their vital role in helping you remain competitive and secure in our great free-market capitalistic democracy.

You know your employees are getting all kinds of advice from their peers, their friends and even the news media. How much advice and commonsense reasoning do they hear from you?

Depending on the size and number of employees in your company, select the most effective method for communicating your critical message:
  • Meet privately with each individual and create a two-way conversation by asking for his or her opinion. You will be pleased with the input you receive.

  • Hold a tailgate meeting at your jobsites.

  • Schedule a group session at your office or a restaurant. Of course, you will get very little feedback in a group session.

We already have far too many good employees on the unemployment lists, as well as good contractors going out of business. When talking to your employees, emphasize the fact our nation’s economy must get back on a positive track or everything we do may not be enough to save employees’ jobs or companies going under.

Tell them what it takes to compete and survive in a recession. One thing you need to do is lower labor costs in order to bid competively for jobs. Positive options include:
1. Every employee digs in and gives 110-percent effort on every eight-hour workday.
2. Value engineer every task to find those cost-saving better ways.
3. Take extra care with our tools, equipment and materials to eliminate costly waste.

Negative options to reduce labor costs include:
1. Cut wages to remain competitive.
2. Replace poor-performing workers with qualified workmen. There are thousands of good craftsmen on unemployment who would gladly work harder for less money.
3. Shut down the business, as many other contractors are doing, before you go broke.

When someone advises you to slow down to save your job, they are absolutely right - you will be laid off and replaced by a qualified craftsman who is more than willing to give the company 110 percent.

Now is not the time to start worrying or become depressed. Instead, remember that old adage, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!”

Put this plan into action right now. What can you lose? It won’t take much of your time to deliver this critical message and see how much your employees appreciate your advice and assurance.

We must be confident that we will survive and we want you to share that goal.

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