Managing employees really shouldn't be as hard as it is. For the most part, employees are pretty predictable.
- They are going to adjust their behavior to fit in with their co-workers.
- Left to themselves, they will do the things they like to do and avoid doing the things they don't like to do.
- They will do whatever they can to avoid pain.
- They will complain about being underpaid.
Having the right approach simplifies things and I'm going to show you one approach that works well.
Be forewarned, the model I'm about to share does not fly well with human resource professionals. They tend to be paranoid about anything that could be interpreted as an employment contract and they feel that any model that is explicit about job responsibilities borders on an employment contract.
I've never gotten my arms around their logic. I come from a simple world and believe employee management should be kept as simple as possible. Intentionally doing something that opens the door to confusion and miscommunication strikes me as stupid.
Here is the 9 step model for creating a self-managing worker.
1. Define Roles & Responsibilities
The goal of step one is to come up with a clear set of TASKS that the employee is to perform. Group these tasks by roles and responsibilities.
For example, a journeyman electrician has several responsibilities among which are installing the work properly; being productive; and training apprentices.
Those three things can be grouped into two roles:
ELECTRICIAN and TRAINER.
Examples of ELECTRICIAN tasks would be familiarizing himself with the plans and specs, planning out his work, and installing his materials.
Step 1 Activity: List all of the major tasks you need your workers to perform.
2. Set Standards & Expectations
Have you ever noticed how often employees are SHOCKED when told their performance was lagging? "I thought I was doing a good job? I didn't know you wanted it done like THAT?"
The problem is driven by misunderstanding, usually resulting from leaving them with hazy clarity about their job. Clear up the haziness. Don't allow for miscommunication about your expectations. Set clear performance standards for every task. How likely is someone to perform his job well if he doesn't know how well he is to perform it? Not very likely...and you suffer for it.
You need is to develop a level of clarity where every employee can look back at the end of the day and KNOW whether they succeeded or not. In clear, specific terms.
Step 2 Activity: Document and explain how well each task is to be performed.
3. Provide Job Training
Unless you are the most profitable company around and willing to pay the highest wages and bonuses, you are going to have to hire and promote people who do not already possess the skills necessary to succeed in the job.
That means they are going to have to learn the skills while working for you. Don't put off training your employees. Sacrifice a little productivity for skill development. Burden your foremen with the responsibility of training their apprentices.
Job training is a classic example of delayed gratification. A little pain (slower crews and more rework) in the short term leads to big gains (faster crews, greater flexibility, lower labor costs, and a larger pool of potential workers) in the long run.
A Test & Balance contractor that's working on a job for me has a training meeting every Monday morning for its field people. The class is lead by their veteran field guy who helps everyone stay up to date on technology and prepared for the crazy situations they run into in the field where HVAC systems rarely are designed or installed correctly.