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My commute to work is less than three miles, and that’s the primary use for one of our vehicles. I end up at the gas station about once a month, and oil changes are almost 9 months apart.
Both of these actions generally are a time for checking the status of the car’s systems beyond gas and oil. Fluid levels and tire pressure, for example, are checked far more frequently on the other car we drive. The result is my car gets neglected and I may not learn of a potential problem until it is too late.
The same is true of employees. If they are neglected by their leader for any length of time, you run the risk of losing their effectiveness. They can potentially become less enabled to work fully in the best interest of your enterprise. Shift operations are even harder. You either have to be very conscious of the schedules and catch people when they swing through days, or maybe show up on off shifts to say hello or lend a hand.
Here are a few ideas I recommend to HR generalists who have the responsibility for any facility.
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- Schedule time to walk around. Management By Walking Around (MBWA) does not just apply to leaders. It applies to HR as well. How can you make decisions about the workplace if you don’t see how people are functioning in that workplace? If there is anything you can do to learn some of their work, to understand what they deal with each day, that’s even better. Once in a while, do this on the swing shift – not just your normal working hours.
- Get to know a little bit about your people. How long have they worked there? How long in that particular job? When you engage with them in casual conversation, what non-work topic comes out first? Maybe it’s their kid’s football team, or their spouse’s volunteer efforts. Know these and sometimes you lead the conversation with them by asking about that, and not about yesterday’s production.
- Ask them if they have any questions about the new policy, or the change in health care providers. We avoid these topics at times because we know employees may be unhappy about them, but having the conversation will possibly help them move from dissatisfaction to acceptance. Then they can focus on their work and not what is bothering them.
- Be ready to hear about, and respond to, issues you had no previous knowledge about. Maybe and employee has been telling her team leader about someone bothering her, and the team leader has not taken any action yet. Once you are aware of some of these, you must be ready to respond with either action or further discussion. Don’t cut that conversation short because you have to get back to the office for a call.
If you are not doing some of these, then you also lose touch with time-based events. Do you know, for a fact, that no one in your organization is spending time trying to convince (or harass) others to vote for their preferred candidate? The current campaign is almost giving a new license to the idea of free speech to mean “I can say what I want to, and you can’t do anything about it”.
In short, you need to open and maintain communications channels with your employees. You don’t do that via a newsletter and a hotline. And you can’t do it solely by reacting to complaints. Get personal. If people are not talking to someone in leadership, you run the risk of operating with neglected employees – those who are not enabled to do the best work possible for your business.