November 11, 2007

Improving Employee Reliability, Part Two

By Paul Bieber

Last week we talked about financial incentives to improve employee reliability, specifically hitting them in the wallet. There are many other ways to improve this most-important of all employee characteristics. Let’s look at a few.

Have an on-time lottery. Set a prize each week, if you are a 3 man shop, make it a $20 bill. If you are 30 man shop, a DVD player or a small TV, or a VISA gift card. Put all employee names in a hat. Pull one name and if that employee had perfect attendance for the week, not a minute late, he or she would win the prize.

If you pulled a name that was disqualified, no prize is won, and it carries over to next week. The disqualified name is not put back in the pot. It’s fun and will work. Once a quarter have a super prize of all people with perfect attendance for the quarter.

Explain to each different work team or job crew how important each person’s role is. Show how each team is slowed down, or even stopped if one person is late. Peer pressure is stronger than employer pressure in any job condition and will work if you have a team type environment.

This next one sounds corny, but it really is true. People react to accolades from peers and employers better than money. For each person who has perfect attendance for a quarter, give them a framed certificate they can hang in your shop. Give a better certificate for two consecutive quarters, and even better for a year. Make each certificate presentation a big deal in the company, and this will pay dividends. Remember back to first grade—you got a gold star if you had perfect attendance. It works just as well now as it did then!

Create an administrative attendance system that understands people do need time off on occasion. We used to call it paid personal days (PPD), and employees earned a certain amount each year. They could be used when sick, or to extend a vacation by a day, or to visit Grandma. As long as they were scheduled in advance, they didn’t count against any attendance awards. The scheduling in advance is the key comment.

We even went as far as to allow conditional PPD’s. A person requested to take off a day if it were a sunny day so they could play golf. If the weather was bad, they came in. We had our plans in place to cover the job if they did play golf: if the person came in we had them train in another department. A win all the way around.

Have a real bereavement policy covering parents, grandparents, spouse, children, brothers and sisters. Some companies include in-laws, some don’t, its up to you. Whether it is one, two or three days is up to you. Make it a standing rule that the newspaper notice has to be turned in for every person. This way you are not discriminating by asking some people for proof and not others. If a person wants to take extra days for a bereavement, then use the PPD’s as available. Don’t count these against perfect attendance goals.

People often ask for other legitimate days off, not to count against goals, but you, as owner, have to draw the line somewhere. You do have a business to run. If someone wants to take a day off for xyz reason, they are going to take it by calling in sick that morning. If you pre-schedule it, at least you are keeping the firm running.

Another attendance problem is the lengthy lunch…when a person is due back at their work station at 1:00, and really get there at 1:10. If you have a lunch facility in your shop is it clean and fun to go into? If not, people will rush out to a fast-food shop and can be late. If you have 10 people, and one microwave, people will leave their posts early so their food can go in the microwave. Buying two more microwaves is a small investment.

Most businesses and shops have a lunch truck that visits. If your specified lunch period is 12:15 to 12:45, but the lunch truck gets there at 12:30, people won’t go back to their work stations on time. Talk with the driver and see how you can alter the schedule, or maybe alter your lunch period.

Most companies pay on Friday, and most employees go to the bank to cash or deposit their checks. This is a classic cause of getting back to work late. A couple of solutions are: extend the lunch break on Friday by fifteen minutes and work the extra time at the end of the day. Direct deposit of checks will cure this. Many employees are afraid of direct deposit for a variety of reasons. Encourage all people to take direct deposit. In some states you cannot force people to enroll. Check with your banker.

Do you have enough parking? Does the second shift have to wait until the first shift leaves to open up a parking space. If an employee is in your parking lot, and you have not given them a space to park in, they will consider that as your problem, and expect to be paid. Silly? Of Course, but it happens.

If I say ‘Cal Ripken’ you would say the longest consecutive games of baseball ever played. Think of this as Cal’s job. He went 15 years without missing a day of work. The country went wild of this. If you have people who have gone five years without missing a day…have a party in their honor on a Friday afternoon. If someone has achieved ten years…take the whole company out for dinner in honor of this great worker. People get motivated to achieve this same goal when they see recognition like this. Take an ad in your local paper showing a picture of your achiever. Maybe the business section of the paper will follow-up and do a story. Send a photo to trade magazines. Publicity about people achieving goals is great publicity.

We talked about penalizing people for missing time, with the hope that inflicting financial pain will solve the problem, and we’ve talked about positive reinforcement. Every company has to use a combination of the two to succeed. Good luck with crafting your plan.