Tag Archives: Productivity

How Do You Survive a Maelström? Seven Strategies

Situation: Edgar Allen Poe’s “Surviving the Maelström,” is a tale is of three brothers whose fishing boat is caught in a monstrous whirlpool, and how the reaction of each brother determines his fate. Similarly, in times of uncertainty, our ability to react with either panic or a rational, reasoned response determines our fate. How do you survive a maelström?

Advice of the CEOs:

  • Based on Poe’s story, you need to replace fear with assurance, uncertainty with boldness, and doubt with conviction.
  • There are several potential financial bubbles forming including student loans and negative interest rate loans to sovereign governments. Both, in their own way, pose a threat to the international and domestic financial systems and could rapidly impact borrowing costs for companies. The solutions are to stay in ongoing contact with customers, and to stay light and flexible as companies so that you can adapt to market changes.
  • For Internet companies, the shift to Freemium offerings (a base product for free with pay as you go functional add-ons) makes it more difficult to design viable business models, and means new competition for established companies in low capital cost businesses. Again, a solution is to stay in ongoing contact with customers, constantly reinforcing your value proposition and the reality of switching costs.
  • Creative Destruction – particularly the emergence of new companies that threaten large customers and can change the value perception of suppliers’ core competencies. Solutions include ongoing communication with customers seeing what they see as “the next big thing,” focusing on continually improving our own core competencies, and possibly teaming with the more promising emerging companies.
  • The illusion that advertising will pay for everything – in reality, advertising dollars are a scarce resource like all other resources. Solutions include testing our own value-adds as an ongoing process, and creating fast-fail models to cost-effectively test our own promotions.
  • Definitions of value and productivity are no longer stable; all depends on the method of measurement. A solution is to remain aware of the innovator’s dilemma and to continually renew our value propositions.
  • A workforce in flux where young people don’t want to work for what they perceive as “old line” companies, as well as early-retiring baby boomers who may learn in 3-5 years that they can’t afford retirement. Solutions include focusing on employee engagement, building more flexible and “liberating” business models, and teaming younger with more experienced workers to cross-train each other.

How Do You Motivate Hourly Employees? Five Suggestions

Situation: A company pays employees based on skill level. Raises are given as an employee learns additional skills. In some cases, when they give an employee a raise, productivity drops. The company has tried other approaches including bonus systems and profit sharing but did not find these effective. How do you effectively motivate hourly employees?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Before trying a new motivation scheme, find out what matters to your employees. It may not be either bonuses or profit sharing.
    • Develop and send out a questionnaire listing different factors – revenue sharing, bonuses, creativity, doing quality work – ask what matters to you? Get their feedback.
    • People work for respect – many studies have shown that as long as the payment offered is fair, salary is secondary.
  • Hire an advocate for your employees – a part-time HR person. An important role for this individual will be to determine what motivates employees, what they want from their jobs, and how improvements in both processes and the working environment can boost productivity.
  • What is the real issue: employee motivation, employee productivity or cost reduction?
    • If material waste is more expensive that labor – create metrics and rewards to reduce waste.
      • At companies that use the Toyota Production System employees receive points for process improvements. At the end of the year they receive a cash payout based on the points earned during the year.
      • Employees are rewarded publicly. The incentives are cash, recognition and respect. These companies find that recognition and respect trumps cash.
    • Depending upon your cost structure, it may be more productive to focus on scrap reduction. Bring in someone with experience who can find the sources of scrap. The effort will pay for itself rapidly.
  • During the hiring process, require educational attainment as evidence of the individual’s commitment.
    • Look for skills experience – machinist, etc. Match skills and experience to your needs. This will lead to faster learning curves and will help to reduce waste.