Improving Employee Knowledge
By: Don Tyler
Many of the employees that we have been hiring over the last several years lack a thorough understanding of our business and all the factors that affect production. They may be good, reliable, effective employees but may not realize how their daily activities have an impact on other areas of the feed lot. Some may be good at performing their daily duties, but lack an understanding of the critical production numbers that indicate the overall profitability of the company.
The operations that have created a very knowledgeable staff communicate their critical performance numbers on a regular basis. They use various techniques, but the one that seems to be the most effective is using charts to track these critical numbers and posting those charts where they can be seen by all the employees.
Some people have trouble comprehending a lot of numbers. Compared to a spreadsheet with several columns of data, charts are easier to understand and key information can be gleaned by just about anyone. Well-designed graphs provide trend lines, the range of acceptable production, “trigger points” for immediate action, notations for procedural or environmental changes and other reference marks. Charts provide a timeline of critical performance information and a quick reference for employees to see their progress.
With charts posted in a common area there are opportunities to quickly reference historical trends and make comparisons between different procedures or products. They can help settle disputes between coworkers and managers on what has been effective in the past, actual performance numbers at different times of the year and current trends in specific areas of production.
Charts as a Training Tool
Charts provide other advantages as well. They help employees see minor changes in trends as soon as they occur, and the rate at which the changes are occurring. They reveal consistency in some areas, and erratic behavior in others. As a teaching tool, they are easy to use as facts to confirm the value of specific procedures. Employees can sometimes have a hard time differentiating between facts and opinions, and the facts used to develop charts are hard to argue with. Some of the best training that you can provide is to stand in front of one of these charts with your crew and ask them, “Tell me all the factors you can think of that affect this specific number…” As they list off different factors, you can talk about each one, the degree that it affects the number, how each of the areas they mention affect the other factors mentioned, and how much control they personally have over each factor.
Employees can give themselves a pat on the back when the numbers are consistently good or headed in the right direction. In the same way, they can get ahead of problems quickly by seeing when performance is not trending to expectations. When performance is getting close to the lines that serve as “trigger points” it reveals the need to get advice and take action. Adding lines that show the desired level of performance helps employees see how they are doing without having to ask. It also gives them the satisfaction of knowing what the target is, and confirmation that the target isn’t being moved by management.
Some Key Points:
• Specific people should be designated to write on a chart and update the data.
• Update charts every week at a consistent time so the employees know when they can see the updated information.
• Be certain that all employees know how the key numbers are calculated so they have confidence in the data points.
• Use different colors to show when trends change direction and to indicate production targets.
• Refer to the charts often and use as a basis for your decisions.
Businesses with fully engaged employees have the best production and the most knowledgeable workforce. Using charts as a reference and training tool enhances their level of engagement and provides them with the information they need to meet production targets.