When I am training business people who wonder why things aren't going well in their office or shop, I find two consistent issues.
1. Employees often don't know how to do their jobs
Quite often, I discover that no one has really told the employee what they are supposed to do. One of my favorite news articles, from the Associated Press, discussed a Philadelphia school system that was trying to figure out how to keep new teachers. According to a study by Ingersoll, almost half of all teachers quit within the first five years. To keep teachers, school systems tried providing mortgage incentives, vehicles, and child care assistance, to no avail.
In Philadelphia, they hired teacher coaches, and their annual retention rate of 80% improved to 93%. It turns out that teachers come out of college not really knowing how to handle some of the day-to-day problems in the classroom. With a teacher coach helping them handle these problems, rather than leaving them to figure it all out for themselves, the new teachers were much more successful, and then more stayed on for another year. From this, I conclude that the teachers would rather know how to do their jobs, than have monetary rewards.
To do their jobs well, employees also need to have a sense of how the job that they are doing fits with the product the company is making. It is harder to determine the quality of a part if you don't know what the part is going into.
To do their jobs well, employees need to "hand off" smoothly to others. When I was working at a museum, we found that even though the three-member full-time staff talked when we were together, we still had a problem with decisions made by one of us, who then had the next day off.
We finally solved it by leaving clear end-of-the-day lists of what we had each done. Companies that work multiple shifts, or more than five days a week, have to develop a hand-off system between the staffs. Each shift needs to think of their work as a part of the whole, rather than a stand-alone product.
2. People don't think about others
So often, the focus at work is selfish. One group that I was training was telling me how bad their supervisors were. We discussed that for quite a while. Then, suddenly, they started talking about summer employees that they, themselves, supervised. They felt these people were just as bad as their supervisors. They didn't seem to see the irony in this!
Getting workers to think each day about the other guys, what they need, what their work problems are, will go a long way toward improving a company's overall productivity.
Two simple rules
Make sure that each employee knows what his or her job is, how to do it and how it fits with the other jobs at the company.
Follow and teach the Golden Rule: "Do onto others as you would have them do unto you."