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Overcoming the Real Shortage in the Employment Market

Overcoming the Real Shortage in the Employment Market

The shortage of employees in the current labor market has been much discussed recently. Several reasons are cited for this shortage, including a lack of employees who actually want to work, the government’s generosity with unemployment and other benefits and, more recently, the pandemic. However, I would suggest one additional cause: the employers. Today’s employees want more from their work. They want appreciation, recognition and fulfillment.

The following four steps provide a road map for employers to attract and retain great employees for their organization:

  1. Discover and utilize your core values to create an intentional culture
  2. Demonstrate care for your employees
  3. Make sure employees know their work is meaningful
  4. Enable employees to measure their performance for themselves

Create an Intentional Culture

If you want to attract and retain great employees, it’s important for your business to have an intentional culture. Culture can be summarized as the attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that make up the atmosphere of the work environment.  I often refer to this as the “vibe” of the business.  Every business has a culture, whether it was created intentionally or not.  

Work culture is a byproduct of a business’s core values in action. Core values are a set of vital and timeless guiding principles, principles you want everyone in your organization to demonstrate on a daily basis.

One reason core values are so important is that they help define what makes someone a great fit for your unique organization. Imagine working with people who share the same core values as you.  How great would it be if everyone in your organization used the same filters to make decisions when resolving an issue?

In the age of “The Great Resignation” and the resulting competition for employees, being crystal clear about your core values is an important step in gaining traction over other companies when hiring.  But it isn’t enough just to have core values.  The impact comes from living and breathing your core values.  Make them more than something hanging on the wall or printed on your coffee mugs.  Define them, embrace them and live them.  Use them to review, recognize and reward your employees.  Incorporate your core values into your hiring process in order to ensure you are attracting the right people into your organization.  

If you aren’t sure you have discovered or clearly defined your core values, now is the time.  The effort you put into this will pay off in the future.  As they say, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The second-best time is today.

Core Value Discovery Process

When I’m implementing EOS, I lead my client’s leadership team through this process to discover and define their core values: 

  1. Identify top three employees.
  2. List their characteristics.
  3. arrow down list to 3 to 7 characteristics (too many and your employees may struggle to remember all of them).
  4. Walk away for 30 days to give leadership team a chance to ruminate over the list.
  5. Reconnect as a team and discuss until you all wholeheartedly agree on which characteristics are key.
  6. Clearly describe these traits and what they look like in action.
  7. Use this list to hire, fire, recognize, review and reward employees.

This process shouldn’t be rushed.  Take the time as a leadership team to make sure you have identified the right values.  And once you have, communicate them with your employees.  Communicate them frequently so your employees recognize the importance of living out these core values.  This will inspire the employees who are a great fit and put those that are not on notice that you are serious about the culture that you want to create.

Enhance Employee Engagement

Once you have clarity around which qualities make someone a great fit for your organization and you are using those to create a great culture, it’s time to shift the focus toward enhancing employee engagement.  In Patrick Lencioni’s book The Truth About Employee Engagement, originally titled The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, he says the three factors that make a job miserable are anonymity, irrelevance and immeasurement. Better employee engagement starts by eliminating these three problems.


If you want your employees to be fulfilled in their work, they first need someone in authority to know, understand and appreciate what they bring to your organization. Regardless of title or pay, if this isn’t addressed, your employee will not thrive. 


Each employee also needs to know that their job matters, whether to the company, your customers or the industry. This seems so basic, but if it isn’t articulated to employees, they will not feel fulfilled. They need to see a connection between the work they are doing every day and something or someone outside of themselves. 


Employees need to be able to gauge their own performance and contribution to the work of the company, independent of the whims of a manager. This requires clearly defined standards by which to measure performance.  Imagine how an employee feels going home on a Friday knowing she had a great week. She hit her numbers and as a result is helping the company hit its numbers.

In the world of EOS, we teach our clients how to keep employees engaged by addressing each of these factors. The first step is to encourage quarterly conversations with each employee about what’s working, what’s not working, where they are excelling and where they could use some improvement.  These conversations should be relaxed, undocumented and two-way. This practice fosters a relationship with each employee so you can communicate that you value them, the impact they are having on the organization and any areas where they could improve.

Another way EOS companies keep their employees engaged is by ensuring that every employee has at least one quantifiable “measurable” to track every week.  This measurable is activity-based and should be meaningful to both the employee and the company.  For individuals in a sales position, finding something to measure is pretty easy.  How many sales calls did you make? Or how many demos did you complete?  
But as you dig further into the organization, finding appropriate measurables may require more thought.  I recommend starting with what someone in each role is accountable for, then identifying measurables that are linked to the outcomes for that role.  
Companies are successful when all the employees are rowing in the same direction, not just the owner(s) or leadership team. The result is a thriving work culture that not only draws great employees but also helps the business gain traction together toward a shared vision.

When your company intentionally addresses the three causes of a miserable job, it has an immediate and obvious impact on your workforce.  Your employees come to work knowing they are valued, that their work matters and that they are succeeding.  This easily translates to higher retention and a happier workforce, which in turn improves productivity.  And a company that has fulfilled, engaged employees will have an easier time attracting more of the right type of employee.  

It is that easy – but it requires a commitment.  

If you are committed to getting each member of your team engaged and working toward achieving your vision, but you need some help getting started, then let’s chat.

Is Your Style Changing with the Times?

Is Your Style Changing with the Times?


Recently I was reading about the Miracle on Ice when the US Men’s Hockey Team beat the Russians in the 1980 Winter Olympics.  What I learned about this team was that the coach, Herb Brooks had to change his entire coaching philosophy in order to get a group of college rivals come together and work as a team.  So, he made a deliberate decision to change his coaching style from an easy going guy to a “drill sergeant.” He was harsh, unyielding and ruthless, i.e. making them practice in the middle of the night.  His objective was to get them to rally together due to their common hatred of their coach.  And it worked.

I started to think about how a different leadership style can have an impact on a team.  I think most managers are comfortable with situational leadership, where you adjust your leadership approach to meet the development level of an employee. But, few managers adapt their style in order to have an effect on the output of the team.

How might a change impact the performance of your team?  If you sense your team is a bit complacent, perhaps a more direct approach might help improve the performance.  Or if you sense a lot of tension among the team members, maybe a more approachable style will make team members more comfortable bringing up issues and asking for your help in resolving them.

If you do decide to make a change, make sure the reason for the change is clear in your mind along with the desired outcome. And changing things up needs to be consistent – your team will be confused if you are a drill sergeant one day and team psychologist the next day.

Who says change has to be a bad thing?  If you can improve the output of your team, it may be worth the extra effort.

For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to




Regardless of which side of the political aisle you sit on, I think we can agree that our government is a classic example of how not to work together.  They engage in finger pointing, yelling, game playing and focus on the individual goals rather than the collective purpose.  For those of us in the private sector, we couldn’t stay in business if we acted like our government.

So, if we can agree that our government isn’t a good example for healthy team work, what does a healthy team look like?  As I reflect on my positive and negative experiences working on a team, I came up with the following which I believe are necessary to ensure a healthy team.

  1. A clear objective.  Make sure that the team understands why they are working together.  What are the collective objectives that the individuals are working towards?  If they don’t know why they are working together, the team isn’t going to succeed.
  2. A desire for the team to succeed.  If the team member or members aren’t committed to working together for good of the team, then ultimately, the individual motives will overcome the team objectives.
  3. A method for handling disagreements.  Having differing opinions is normal, but, it is important that when opinions start to clash, there are guidelines in place to address the disagreements in a healthy manner.
  4. A willingness to hear the other side. We all can benefit from hearing others with a different opinion.  Not just to respond to what they are saying, but, to really listen and understand.
  5. An ability to admit when we are wrong. As Zac Brown sang with Asyln, “you’re not always right, I’m not always wrong.”
  6. Accountability.  Nothing will derail a team faster than individuals who aren’t held accountable for their contributions.

You may be able to name other requirements for a healthy team.  But, I think this list is a good start to ensuring a healthy, functioning team. I’m sure we can agree that we want to be more functional than our federal government.

For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to

Please Don’t Judge Me!

Please Don’t Judge Me!


I’ll be honest, I’d be embarrassed if you ever saw my work shop.  I tend to be one of those people who works around my messes. I don’t normally detect how dirty my workspace is until my husband gently suggests that I might work a bit more efficiently if I cleaned up my work bench before starting on another project.

I believe we are all guilty of looking past what we see on a daily basis.  That is why audits are so important. An outside set of eyes can see areas that we may overlook.  Internal audits can be structured in a number of different ways but must include a system for follow-up. Over my time in manufacturing, I have seen audits implemented in a number of effective ways, including the following:

  • Management Gemba Walk – This can be an effective tool to demonstrate to the workforce a sense of unity within the management team. In addition, when issues are identified, all the managers can collectively decide how to address the issue.
  • Safety Audits – These are typically conducted by members of the EH&S committee and are focused on potential safety or environmental hazards. Getting employees involved in this committee can greatly enhance the effectiveness of these types of audits.
  • Layered Process Audits – LPAs are conducted on specific processes by individuals who don’t work in the department being audited.  This gives a set of eyes that may detect issues that department employees may overlook.  In addition, it provides employees exposure to other departments within the plant.
  • Quality Systems Audit – this audit can be used to make sure the quality system is being followed.  These are typically conducted by personnel trained on the Quality Measurement System and are focused on ensuring conformance to company policies and regulatory requirements.

Regardless of the type of audits that are conducted in your plant, make sure there is a mechanism in place to ensure that identified issues are addressed.  Without this, the audits may lose their intended purpose.

For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to

A Hard Skill to Identify the Soft Art

A Hard Skill to Identify the Soft Art


In a survey recently conducted by AKT and the Northwest Food Processors Association, manufacturers expressed concern about finding employees with the necessary skills to fill open positions while nearly all respondents admitted their operator training program has room for improvement.

One of the challenges in training a new operator is teaching those “soft” skills to do a task.  There is often an art to doing a task that can be hard to learn.  This art may be a technique to reduce physical fatigue, troubleshooting a piece of equipment or evaluating a part prior to processing.

So, how do you capture those soft skills and effectively transfer them to a new employee?  One technique that has worked well is to video the skilled operator performing the task.  If it is a repetitive task, capture the task multiple times looking for differences.  These may highlight some of the nuances that need to be captured. Taking video from different angles may also pick up subtle differences.

Once complete, review the video with the operator and have him explain what he is doing and why.  Look for small movements which could be overlooked.  These may include shifting weight from one leg to another, rotating the part in his hand as part of his inspection process or verifying fixture set-up before every part.

Incorporate the what and why from your skilled operator into your training documentation including procedures, standard work or even training videos. Once complete, have a different operator perform the task following the updated documentation.  Incorporate his comments and then try it again. It may take a few iterations, but, eventually, you will have the necessary materials to assist in training new operators.

So, where should you start?  I would begin with the position that has the greatest impact to the business. It will take some time to complete, but, establishing a process and getting started will help reduce some of your business exposure.

Click here if you are interested in reading the entire survey conducted by AKT and NWFPA.

For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to

We Tried That, But, It Didn’t Work

We Tried That, But, It Didn’t Work


As you look at your organizational challenges, do you have some nagging issues that you can’t seem to resolve? One manufacturer shared they do a good job of implementing process improvements, but, they don’t seem to “stick”. Another said the operators don’t follow instructions.

Often during discussions around potential resolutions to these issues I hear, “we tried that but it didn’t work.”  Perhaps you have heard that phrase as you work to resolve your organizational challenges.

Over the past few weeks, I have been discussing the programs within Training Within Industry.  The first three programs, Job InstructionJob Methods and Job Relations provide tools to help people learn to do their jobs quickly, improve how the jobs are done and effectively deal with conflict that arises along with way.  Each of these programs can effectively be applied to individual manufacturing plants.  However, at some point, there are some challenges that are unique to a particular plant or company. So, the last program contained in Training Within Industry is Program Development which is defined as “how to address a production problem through training.” The program includes defining the production problem, developing a specific plan, putting the plan into action and then checking to ensuring the action has the desired results.

When defining the problem, it is helpful to gather evidence and underlying causes for the specific issue.  This data can help determine if you have a training issue or perhaps a different production issue. All too often the problem isn’t fully defined before implementing a quick fix resulting in a nagging organization issue.

Following this process may take a lot of time, a precious resource in most organizations. But, before deciding that you don’t have time to utilize this program, ask yourself, how much is this issue costing my bottom line?  If I don’t address it, am I willing to live with this ongoing problem?  If you decide that the organization needs to address the issue, follow the process outlined in Program Development.  I am confident that you will be able to make lasting improvements to your organization.

For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to

Cooking and Process Improvement

Cooking and Process Improvement

Tips to Enhance Employee Involvement in Process Improvement

I enjoy trying new recipes but if you know me at all, I’m not very good at following instructions.  So, the first time I try a recipe, I will try to follow the instructions and for the most part, use the specified ingredients. If a recipe proves to be worth trying again, I will begin analyzing the instructions in order to find a more efficient way to prepare the dish.

I am sure that the creator of the recipe came up with the process based on the skills and equipment that she had, but, my kitchen set-up is different and as a result, I’m sure I can find a more efficient way to achieve the same results.

The Job Methods program within Training Within Industry has a similar goal but on a much larger scale.  This program was developed to teach employees to understand and improve their work and to sell their improvement ideas to their supervisors, peers and upper management.  The goal is to give plant personnel the tools they need in order to produce more products in less time with the same level of quality while utilizing the available resources.

If you believe that your plant has opportunities to enhance employee involvement in your process improvement initiatives, I would make the following suggestions:

  1. State the organizational goals and how improving the process of how things are done will help achieve those goals.  Make sure these goals are congruent with the workforce goals, i.e. increased profitability.
  2. Give employees the freedom to question how things are done.  Don’t allow the phrase “but we have always done it that way” to be used.  Perhaps set-up a friendly fine for the person who expresses that sentiment.
  3. When looking at ways to improve a process, utilize a Job Methods Breakdown sheet in order to capture all the steps in the process and then question every step.  Ask Why? What? Where? When? Who? How? as you work through each of the steps.
  4. Provide employees a method for making suggestions for process improvements.  I have often heard employees say that they have made suggestions but no one ever accepts them.  But, in order for a process improvement idea to be made, it needs to be well thought out and presented in a setting where constructive feedback can be made and received.
  5. Make sure employees receive recognition for their ideas.  The more recognition they receive; the more ideas they will generate.

Employee involvement in continuous improvement activities is an important key to the success of manufacturing companies.  But, without the proper training and support, employees may end up feeling disconnected from these activities.  Effective communication, robust training and an open and supportive workplace will go a long way towards achieving your productivity goals.

For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to

The Key to a Healthy Work Environment

The Key to a Healthy Work Environment

Training Supervisors on Conflict Resolution

Dealing with conflict is an important part of a healthy work environment. And making sure people have the skills to resolve those issues was so important that Job Relations Training was included as one of the four programs within Training Within Industry. Donald Dinero in his book “Training Within Industry” said Job Relations Training “gives supervisors an easy method to use on a daily basis to inform their decisions and make their jobs easier.”

The program includes a 4 step method for handling conflict.  As I read through the 4 steps (Get the Facts, Weigh and Decide, Take Action and Check Results), I thought about how difficult it can be to take unemotional approach to a situation where you are emotionally involved.

But, being effective in a supervisory role requires the ability to look beyond the emotions and focus on what is best for the organization.  The importance of a supervisor is often overlooked but, he or she probably has one of the most difficult positions within a manufacturing plant.  It is the supervisor’s responsibility to produce consistent results in order to meet the business objectives, however, they are also responsible for addressing the day to day concerns of the hourly employees.  I imagine the supervisor being pulled in both directions when at times, these two groups are perceived to be diametrically opposed. The supervisor is expected to be calm under pressure, patient, demanding, understanding, unyielding, etc.

Have you looked at the organization through the supervisor’s glasses?  Do they have the skills they need in order to keep your organization moving in the direction you want it to move?  Are they getting the support they need in order to address the concerns of the hourly work force while focusing on the organizational goals?

For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to

Do I Really Need a Training Methodology?

Do I Really Need a Training Methodology?

Introducing Job Instruction Training

One way to remove variability from your process is to ensure the operators are properly trained. Sounds easy enough – but how do you go about doing that?

Fortunately, a proven methodology has already been developed. Job Instruction Training (JI), one of four programs contained in Training Within Industry (see this blog for more information on TWI) covers this important topic. According to JI, training can be broken down into the following steps:

  1. Prepare the Operator.  People tend to be nervous before learning something new and this can impact the learning process.  So, try to relax the operator while learning more about him, including any relevant experience.  You also want to explain why what they are learning is important and how this task relates to the overall manufacturing process.
  2. Present the Operation.  Explain each of the steps in the operation, identifying key points along with the reasons for each step.  Describing each step while the operator watches will help the operator learn much faster. The more senses that are utilized during learning will increase the retention rate and speed.
  3. Perform the Operation. Once the operator has seen the steps performed and had the key points and reasons explained, now is the time to try it himself.  As the operator works through the steps, have him explain the key points and reasons for each step.  Be patient as the operator walks through each of the steps taking the time to check for understanding by asking questions.
  4. Follow-Up.  Once you feel the operator has a good understanding of the process, you can leave him alone.  But, make sure you check back with him periodically (more frequently initially) to ensure the steps are being followed and he doesn’t have any questions.

After reviewing this information, you probably had a similar reaction as me which was “this seems fairly straightforward.”  However, I also wondered how many instructors have been taught how to train an employee to do a new job.  Without a doubt, it is possible to be successful without a fully defined training methodology, but, I wonder, how much more efficient and effective could you be if you took the time to establish a formal training method for your instructors to follow?

For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to