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Major Mind Shift – Some Key Lessons Learned In Operations

During my career I have had the privilege to start nine facilities and manage 15 operations in North and South America.  We got very effective and efficient in the construction, layout, process flow, and equipping operations.  But, by far the biggest competitive advantage we discovered and diligently worked on was creating a high performance culture.  That required a major mind shift on the roles and responsibilities of leading people.  Maximizing our human capital was a key performance objective and goal of every leader – and not left exclusively to the HR Department. Ultimately, every leader had to become an HR “generalist” and they were supported by professional, trained HR “specialists.”

In this first of a multiple entry series, I will highlight some best practices we discovered while partnering with our HR professionals to lead people and maximize their commitment, effort, and loyalty.

  • Work Attire.  Teams wear the same uniforms or work attire.  Employees knew there were different roles on the team but everyone played for the same team and wore the same clothing.  Simple but powerful.
  • Hiring.  HR professionals screened applications and narrowed down the pool of candidates.  But, it was critical that Operation leaders actively participated in final interviews.  Ultimately we needed to be directly involved in picking our team members.
  • Call-in Policy (Absenteeism).  If an employee was going to miss work, then they contacted their immediate boss not HR.  And, if they didn’t contact their boss then the boss called them.  This helped drive more accountability and genuine concern for individuals.
  • Policies and Procedures.  Operation leaders were trained by HR specialists on the basics of our employee handbook, pay, and benefits.  It was not acceptable for an Operation leader to send someone to the HR specialist or a website without first trying to answer the question themselves.  We wanted all leaders to be a credible source of information for their employees.
  • Bi-monthly ‘People Meetings.’  These mandatory 2-hour meetings had a standard, 3-part agenda.  First, we discussed, by name, any employee who deserved special recognition (non-financial) for results and values-based behavior.  Second, we replicated the process for anyone who was being coached and/or disciplines for unacceptable results or behavior.  Finally, our HR specialist would highlight a section of the employee handbook.  Our ultimate goal was to create more consistency in coaching our employees.
  • Process Discipline.  Inconsistencies in how Operation leaders handled overtime notice, time off requests, performance reviews, and filling job openings created perceived favoritism.  HR specialists were responsible for developing and monitoring the processes but Operation leaders had to be accountable for the timeliness and quality of execution.

The famous management consultant Peter Drucker said, “so much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work.” In my Operations experience, I’ve found it much easier for people to work effectively by having their boss accountable for employee attraction, development, engagement, and retention than the HR Department.  The result has been exceptional customer service, quality, productivity, and overall performance.

What’s your experience been? Let me know at [email protected]  More “Operations Lessons Learned” in my next post.

Republished with author’s permission from original post.

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