Not always seen as a critical area for the typical precast plant, the ties that bind managers, supervisors, and employees can directly impact a manufacturer’s bottom line – positive or negatively.
By Bridget McCrea
Creating strong ties between production personnel and managers is an ongoing challenge for most manufacturers. Traditionally, these two areas of responsibility attract two entirely different personalities, backgrounds and skill sets – yet they are expected to work in harmony for the overall good of the company. Bridging the gap between the two requires a deliberate, methodical strategy based on open lines of communication and understanding.
This is the first of a two-part human resources article that broaches a topic many manufacturers choose to avoid: establishing clear lines between the production floor and the management staff. In this segment, we’ll look at how to build strong, lasting bonds between management and production. In the next issue, we’ll show you how to successfully transition production workers into management positions. The goal is to help you establish strong principles around these two important human resources issues and ultimately create a stronger, more cohesive company.
The ties that bind
Armen Alajian understands the value of developing strong ties between his firm’s production and management personnel. As owner of ARTO Brick in Gardena, Calif., he also knows achieving that goal isn’t always easy. “It’s vital to have good relationships between the production laborers and the management teams,” says Alajian. “Without it, the company doesn’t run properly. That’s because people are assets – not tools.”
With 56 employees and a strong family-owned work ethic, he says the company’s leaders and managers “overtly engage those staff members who show up every day, ready to work.” Communication is important, Alajian adds, as is giving praise where it is due and keeping employees apprised of the company’s accomplishments, progress and challenges.
“We want our plant floor employees to know that we are all working hard,” says Alajian, “and that we’re showing it by giving out the highest level of respect possible combined with monetary rewards – both of which are very important to all employees.” He sees the fact that all of ARTO Brick’s managers worked on the production floor before moving up the ranks as a positive for the manufacturer and its employees.
“Just the fact that they are all trained on production mechanics and processes, and that they have performed and moved up the ranks,” says Alajian, “makes the communication lines that much easier to establish between management and production.”
The building blocks
In many cases, a lack of communication prevents strong ties from forming between production and management personnel, and ultimately leads to lower respect and trust levels between the two groups. In most cases, that lack of trust germinates on the plant floor, where production personnel are left out of the loop on major decisions that could impact them. Such sentiments can quickly lead to gridlock in the production cycle.
Greg Chase, president of Chase Consulting in West Harwich, Mass., says having good lines of communication between workers and their supervisors and/or managers can assuage the situation and keep the production needle closer to (if not right on) the 100% level.
Chase, who teaches a class that covers communication during The Precast Show, says asking questions – and then listening to the answers – are the first steps to achieving that 100% productivity level and the associated benefits that come with a solid production-management connection. Don’t expect that exercise to be easy, particularly for the managers. “The process takes time and patience,” says Chase, who points to the typical manager’s “Type A” personality (defined as: headstrong, assertive and in charge) as a stumbling block for precasters looking to create more harmony between departments.
“Managers have to be proactive and assertive as a part of their jobs, but in this scenario they have to take the time to develop their listening skills instead of telling others what to do,” says Chase. Next, encourage managers to “walk the four corners” of the company on a daily basis, along the way interacting with employees in all departments, asking questions and listening to concerns. “The key is to make yourself visible,” says Chase. “That’s really important to employees, and it goes a long way in creating bonds and relationships that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Plus, you learn more about people, which in turn supplies you with better input regarding their management potential.”
Connecting the dots
Precasters striving to connect the dots between production and management personnel should involve their production supervisors in the process, according to Chase, who sees these individuals playing an essential role in a smooth-running plant. “Production supervisors should also maintain good housekeeping safety and quality,” says Chase. Where many of them fall short, however, is in the management tactics and skills – something they didn’t necessarily learn while working on the plant floor (where many supervisors get their start). “They need training on how to interact with the employees (the ‘people skills’) that they’re overseeing and help understanding the difference between their past and current responsibilities,” says Chase.
The opposite scenario can also pose challenges, according to Gustavo Gonzalez, president of Safe-T At Work LLC in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “Some managers have never been involved in the production process and don’t understand the basic fundamentals behind it,” he points out. Or they limit their presence on the floor to a short walk in the morning to reassure themselves that everything is running. “Some are good at reading reports and figures, but lack the basic concept of how to mix concrete. Others rely on the plant superintendent or manager to keep them informed.”
Gonzalez says bridging the gap between production and management is not an issue that is unique to precasters. It impacts every business enterprise that wants to find continuity in its operations. “If we as precasters do not produce a consistent product – with built-in quality, in an efficient manner, and delivered on time – the organization plainly ceases to exist,” says Gonzalez. “Management and production are in place to complement each other in their respective functions, and this is a relationship that should be based on trust and effective communication.”
Karen Gureghian, a Minneapolis-based HR consultant, says the key to building these relationships is communication. For example, she’s seen manufacturing companies set up television monitors in the production break area and then use the displays to disseminate regular updates on new accounts, business developments, company performance and company news.
Setting up regular employee meetings – either formal or informal – where current and relevant information can be shared between departments is another step in the right direction. “You want constant communication back and forth between employees and the management team,” says Gureghian. “This really helps to bridge the gap between ‘us’ and ‘them.’”
Overcoming the hurdles
If building relationships between management and production is on your company’s “to do” list for 2013, expect the effort to be met with skepticism – at least initially. “That skepticism will be the first hurdle as management works to convince production that this isn’t some new fad or experiment,” says Gonzalez. As mentioned earlier, building trust should be the first step, as it will allow managers to “walk the walk” and serve as proper role models, he adds.
Next, figure out if your company actually has a problem in this area, and whether top and supervisory managers recognize the issue – or not. If they don’t, getting them to cooperate and become engaged with any new initiative will be difficult at best. “If management doesn’t think it has a relationship problem, then any other step or strategy will be useless,” Gonzalez warns. “The first questions to ask are, ‘Do I really know what is going on at my plant? Can I step into the plant and recognize if we have a problem or not?’ If the answer to these questions is no, then it is time to take a Concrete Production 101 course,” he adds.
When and if management recognizes that there is a relationship problem, Gonzalez says the next step is for those personnel to educate themselves in the production process and understand the issues that may or may not affect the bottom line of the business. “They need to participate, get involved, listen to the production personnel, and try to find solutions together,” he advises.
Establishing two-way lines of communication will be another key step for most manufacturers, and in particular those that haven’t historically cultivated such conduits. “One-way communication may be effective between kings and servants, but it has outlived its purpose,” says Gonzalez. “To be most effective, management must listen to the feedback from production and react accordingly. Money is not made behind a desk in a fancy office, but it is made pouring concrete in the forms.”
Reaping the rewards
Precasters who take the time to assess, cultivate and/or fix the bonds between their production and management personnel can expect big rewards in return. Not only will the workplace itself be more harmonious, but plant floor personnel will be more productive, safer and loyal. Managers will be able to allocate their time and efforts more effectively as well.
“Almost immediately you’ll see higher morale among employees and a greater sense of purpose across the workforce,” says Gonzalez. Other key benefits include lower absenteeism rates, more teamwork, better return on investment (in human resources) and – ultimately – higher profits and a healthier bottom line for the company as a whole.
Having worked with a number of manufacturers that have successfully improved their management-production bonds, Chase says putting the time and effort into this exercise also yields better trust and respect levels within the employee, supervisor and management ranks. “When these measures increase, you wind up with better results across the board,” says Chase, who adds that housekeeping, safety, production efficiency and quality levels also benefit from these efforts.
“All four areas – safety in particular – need attention and must achieve certain levels of success in a precast concrete plant,” Chase says. “So as you improve the relationships and communication between management, supervisors and employees, you can also expect improvements in these other areas as well.”
Bridget McCrea is a freelance writer who covers manufacturing, industry and technology. She is a winner of the Florida Magazine Association’s Gold Award for best trade-technical feature statewide.
Pam Dawang says
This is very beneficial to me as a student. It carries all the condiments required to manage a production setup. I believe it’s a life report of a successful casting factory.
Great article! Making daily or weekly trips to the production floor to interact with employees is a great way to connect, build relationships, and open communication.
Robert Perry says
Pretty common sense. Try to emulate what you want in a boss.
Nathan Kost says
A great way to build relationships is going to the floor during off shifts.
Excellent..! Ownership, commitment, team work; connection..
David Contreras says
Being part of the process, projects, or tasks will lead to connecting with everyone; to influence the employees of any plant, managers and work force must cooperate to work as a team to overcome and find solutions to problems. This is an excellent article that properly describes the benefits of healthy relationships in a plant.
Jason Pekul says
Listening is a trait that can be used to build quick relationships as listeners are hard to find. We all appreciate when we are heard. Besides building relationships, it helps in proper collaboration and will influence everyone to take the correct and right course of action.
Bill Medley says
Companies pay good money to have equipment maintained and yet spend hardly any resource time on their people assets. Relationship building is a must.
Scott Neuweg says
I totally agree.
Amanda Groomer says
Relationships are so important in any facility!
Lee Hodgson says
A good example of servant leadership. Production and management must work as one to be successful.
Sergio romero says
While I like the idea of coming from the floor as relatable concept…I also think it can be difficult at times to break out of your previous mold and manage/lead your peers. Not all the time but it can create a different dynamic that one must adapt to.
Jennifer Middleton says
And sometimes when you break out of your previous mold you are better able to see the things you needed to change or improve!
Larry Dunkelberger says
Communication is key between management and production personnel.
Cindy Vogel says
It usually comes back to communication and treating others the way you would want to be treated. Lots of “leading by example” and caring about others.
Luke Hinchman says
Practice positive thinking and allowing others to ne heard. Also gain the trust and respect needed to be a great leader.
Marianne Vallières says
C. Mason Watkins says
Great article! Communication between the production floor and management is extremely important.
Jason Whaley says
Great article. People are assets and need to be checked on regularly. I liked the concept of walking the four corners. Sometimes it feels that nothing is wrong until you walk by, but that should indicate how much you may be missing when not present. Protecting the critical mass is a must. Often the few carry the many, and protecting that core group can make or break production goals.
Communication between management and the employees on the floor is key to building trust and teamwork within your department.
Jennifer Middleton says
Communication -> trust -> strong foundation
Yes. Building relationships is important, its the only way to open the paths of communication.
Michelle Wilson says
Communication and authenticity are invaluable when building relationships.
Patricia Fields says
Communication one of the most important issues. I have talked with employees and one of their main concerns is frustration with lack of communication when it affects the every day job demands. Not being heard or consulted.
Diane S says
Smile when you approach (even behind the mask in 2020/2021)
Shannon Goode says
Great article! We struggle a lot to connect leaders with our production hourly associates. This article provided great ideas on how to bridge that gap.
Javier Sanchez Sorcia says
If you want your employees to be engage, You must engage with them, learn about them as your more important asset (Human being), learn about their daily necessities, identify what tools and only mechanical but also skills they need it, Develop, coach them because as a manager we have the obligation & the responsibility to provide them whit those tools, not only for them to meet the expectation but to exceeded; Them you will become a Owners business Administrator.
Garrett Gresham says
In my opinion, the best way for management to improve production-management relationships is twofold:
1) Management should understand the plant does not run without production employees. They should take a vested interests in the thoughts and concerns production employees bring up. The gap is bridged when management understands the importance of production employees and actively listens to them.
2) Production employees should be given regarding why the work they are doing is important. A plant (or production line team) should all be focused on the same goal. Everyone needs to understand their part in achieving that goal.
Lisa Reed says
David Krainz says
Communication, Communication, Communication, it cannot be under estimated…
Lisa Reed says
Jody Endvick says
Good Read. Building relationships builds trust
Kelly Hipsher says
Building relationships build trust. Good information in this article.
Amber Fiedler says
Great article….building trust in relationships is so important.
Shannon Simon says
Great article – I like how they advise a manager to know the process and be familiar with it if they have not been a part of the process. So many times things change and the employees are not involved. This is a great example of servant leadership.
Tom Willis says
The team on the floor is how the job gets done. Listen to them and remove obstacles that they identify to you and by doing so you will build trust in the relationship and accomplish more overall.
Haddi Touray says
Maintaining open communication, providing frrdback and building relationships are important. Also showing appreciation and welcoming feedback from team members makes a more unified team.
Jaime Valentin says
Article was good… I find that getting in the “Trenches”, so to speak, with employees when there are concerns rather than just observing goes a lot further for mutual respect: actions speak louder that words.
Justin Peper says
The article was a good read. I have always believed that in any supervisor/ management roll, presence on the shop floor is a must. I have found that sometimes I am in the way, but 90% of the time there is a conversation to be had and someone I can help. Here at our plant we have recently implemented Leadership Coaching on the Floor and it has been beneficial.
Justin Peper says
I found the article informative. Communication is the most important part of the business. You have to communicate.
Larissa Blakley says
Open communication is the most important practice to implement in any business relationship especially in manufacturing.
Joseph H says
Maybe I’m wrong but this seemed to work for me. I know we all have our own jobs to do. Setting some time aside not only to go out and talk with them but work with them as you talk. Have them explain what their doing. I find you get more Trust and Respect from your employees when you physically know what it takes to do the job they do day in day out. It is easy to try their job for a little bit or look at something they do and say “there is nothing to that”
I feel this does a couple different things.
When they talk to you about something you can relate from personally doing it. You know what they are going through. You feel their discomfort and strugglers. You would have a better understanding when they explain what happen then feeling you don’t understand why it took so long or why it wasn’t done on time. Most employees want to be better then the boss. If he can do it I can do it better.
Angela Joy says
Great article! You must build trust and always be proactive in addressing or solving problems not just listening.
kripal gulwan says
great way to connect, build relationships, trust and open communication.
I strive to have a positive relationship with my peers. Having that positive vibe makes your job easier and more durable. With a good relationship comes trust.
M Jansen says
My favorite section of the article was the following:
“One-way communication may be effective between kings and servants, but it has outlived its purpose,” says Gonzalez. “To be most effective, management must listen to the feedback from production and react accordingly. Money is not made behind a desk in a fancy office, but it is made pouring concrete in the forms.”
Making sure the employees feel heard and actually see something being done when they voice their opinion is so important!
“Walk the Four Corners on a daily basis,” seems to be such as simple task but many struggle to understand the importance of “being seen.”
Given my position in HR I find that most complaints from the production employees are in regard to the lack of presence by management and their supervisors while on the floor.
Amy Dupree says
Shateek Vail says
L. Veil says
Tony Baden says
Isaac Tawney says
Communication has always been the most important thing to me when it comes to building a good relationship with associates. They really like being in the know and loop.
Aaron Minard says
Not always being in management, I can say I always appreciated the managers who took the time to walk the floor and establish a relationship. I found it easier to relate to managers who understood they put their pants on 1 leg at a time and didn’t act arrogant. As a result those managers had the respect of me and most of the other employees. And from that, I believe there goals were met more when they led a team that cared about helping that manager be successful.
Tamie Jester says
Caring about your Team, Communicating with your Team and Listening to what your Team has to say is the Best way you can earn Trust and Respect from your Team.
Heather Dunham says
I firmly believe to be successful you must lead by example. I am regularly on the floor to verify/coach and sometimes to even be coached by my operators. This article was perfect!
Heather Dunham says
I am a firm believer in lead by example. I make a point to be visible on the floor to verify/coach if needed as well as to be coached. Open communication is key, operators need to know and believe that leadership actively listens to them with follow thru
Manuel Vera says
Insightful article, especially agree with the comments on having a background with the production aspect. Knowledge of how things work goes a long way.
Kenneth Boone says
i Agree that the first thing is to get management to buy in. It starts at the top.
Kenneth Boone says
It’s all about team. We win together and we learn together.
Kandra M Johnson says
This is a great article outlining the importance of bridging the gap between the workers and the floor and other areas of the facility. Works to build a One Team One Goal mentality.
Emily Will says
I personally came up to a supervisory role from hourly/production… I think it helps me connect to those I supervise since I know who they are and where they are coming from.
Beverly Wroten says
I worked as an hourly employee for many years. It helps to have that understanding in connecting with others at all levels.
Lesli Alvarenga says
the loop of communication is so important in workplace setting. This was a good and education article.
Holley Detrick says
Great article, leaders sometimes need to take a step back and reflect on how they are seen in the light of their subordinates and ask themselves “What kind of leader do I want to be, where am I lacking, how can I correct this?”
Rafael A Sanabria says
If you don’t communicate with the team members, they will have their own individual perceptions, which spawn rumors, low moral & mistrust. Communication is one of the most important aspects in any facility. The more the folks know on the floor, the more successful the process will be.
Lyndon Martin says
Communication in all aspects and at all levels are extremely important and in addition, vital to the success of any Company.
Holley Detrick says
It’s critical to have open lines of communication between levels within the organization. Being honest, setting expectations, and raising flags for concerns will benefit all parties in the long run.
Veruzka Vera says
Excellent article…! The key is establishing clear lines between the production floor employees and the management staff. “Teamwork, commitment, modeling”
Herman Gipe says
Excellent article. A lot of good items to consider and evaluate for your situation.
Winter Lanham says
Servant Leadership is one of the most humbling and rewarding traits a supervisor can have.
Erica Carvalho says
It is essential to have two ways communication. I am a big fan of face-to-face communication. Very good material! Thanks for sharing.
Herman Gipe says
Face to face conversations is what I prefer. It allows everyone to see reaction and body language. It also helps eliminate the possibility of misunderstandings due to interpretation.
Jordan Brier says
Great article with a lot of information!
Laura Hawk says
Communication is always a hot topic and so crucial in any business.
Mike Adams says
Nice article. A great manager is also a great coach, being out on the floor with their employees and getting them engaged will lead to a more productive environment.
harry wilsey says
Good article ,Relationship in the work place has to be good cause you are with your workers more than your home.