Absence of Performance Culture

This particular client assessment sought to identify the root causes and action plan around the differences seen in thoughts, feelings, and levels of engagement in the organization. Interestingly, the front line employees themselves had a high level of interest in this same topic as well. The volume of work present weighed heavily on all employees. Burnout, treading water, and similar metaphors were almost universally mentioned. Employees expressed concern at their ability to maintain their level of effort and stay focused on longer term goals.

Root Cause

An unignorable level of employees expressed concern and frustration around the performance levels of peers. While these “low performers” were not a majority, they were present in enough areas to be a bothersome topic of discussion for most other employees. The most indicative behaviors are excessive cell phone use (such as scrolling social media or watching YouTube videos), and “hiding” in areas where one would not be noticed by passersby or even peers in adjacent cells. Another facet of performance was a relative discontent with the quality of new hires. Employees express significant frustration with the turnover of recent hires given their level of time, effort, and the impact of production that training these new employees required.

When digging into this issue of low performance with the employees, most struggled at first to put their finger on the cause of this disengagement or poor performance. Yet they consistently reached  similar conclusions: That many employees, especially those hired in the past few years, do not have the same depth of training to inform them on what activities would be valuable to engage in during machine runs or other periods that may seem like they are downtime.

Applied Methods

We process-mapped the new hire training process along two parallel paths: one based on what executives understood to be occurring; and a second shadowing actual new-hires for their first weeks using daily mini-check-ins and journaling. We discovered that the training process leadership thought was occurring was rarely surviving intact on the production floor. Trainers were pulled away on a daily basis to address backlog or expedites – leaving brand new trainees routinely unsure of what to do with their working time. Also, once a trainee was competent with the most basic of functions, production supervisors would end their training. This left most new hires totally unprepared to troubleshoot any issues or deviations in process from the most basic production activities. At this point, the new hires were often transferred to 2nd and 3rd shifts, where running into essentially any issue could mean that they may be forced to conclude that the work is unable to continue until the following shift when an experienced employee was present to troubleshoot.

To solve these issues – we identified the best trainers from several production functions throughout the organization and obtained their input on the formal training structure that had been assumed by the executive team. We made changes to it based on their feedback on what was most effective. We then walked production supervision through what we had observed from our assessment and its impact on their overall production and performance. In conjunction with a small team of supervisors and trainers, we established practical safeguards around training time. Recognizing that there would remain high priority issues that would require them to be pulled occasionally, we identified protocols for new hires to pursue self-guided training (not just sticking them in front of a video, we promise) during those time periods. We also developed transparent progress documents and checklists that new hires could use to allow their peers to be more active in their training during such disruptions – as well as for all team members to keep a lookout for uncommon situations that new hires needed exposure to. This also served as a source of confidence and growth as new hires had a better understanding of their own progress.

The client organization measured a 40% decrease in average turnover levels of new hires over the next 90 days, and over 20% improvement in production levels from work cells staffed by employees with <2 years of experience during that same time period.