In Employee engagement, Employee Satisfaction, Rick Conlow

Have you ever been fired?

My brother-in-law worked as a sheet metal worker most of his career. He was also worked as the union steward. His philosophy: fair and firm. He was known for his integrity. He had put in over twenty years at his company.

One day he and the whole crew came to work and found out they didn’t have jobs. A company from the eastern US bought them out. The new management said, “Your fired. We will hire back 80% of you at $2 an hour less.”

Fired and Re-interviewed for Less

Interviews began the next day.

Most employees re-interviewed, it’s what they knew for many years. My brother-in-law got his job back.

A few weeks after this, I talked to him at a family gathering.

I said, “How’s it going?” He said, “Great, we are getting our $2 back.” I said, “Good.” He replied, “You don’t understand. The crew is only working when supervisors are around, and they aren’t around that much.”

Treating Employees as Partners


Recently another manager emailed me. He worked hard for his company. As he explained, weekends, holidays and seventy hours a week. He had excellent performance evaluations. When his daughter got sick and he took some time off to help with her healing. Within a few months he was laid off. He put his heart into the business. The company said they were restructuring.

Isn’t sad that in our modern technological age, people are treated like this, and the workplace ends up in an adversarial climate? Is it any wonder employee engagement is so low. With the mountain of leadership resources, thought, training, education, books available…to me it’s ridiculous. The company above could of done so much better. Chances are they wanted to cut expenses to reach profit goals. Instead of instigating labor problems. Come on, nobody in their right mind thought the employees would like what the company did, right? For example in my consulting career I have helped clients deal with these kinds of issues through partnering with employees by:

  1. Meet with employees to discuss the challenge and goals, brainstorm ideas and build teamwork.
  2. Set-up small fast acting functional teams to improve quality and productivity gains.
  3. Establish cross functional teams to identify ways to reduce waste and cost.
  4. Initiate training for new methods for all shop employees.
  5. Ensure supervision was well trained to communicate with the shop employees.
  6. If needed look at alternative ways to schedule the plant without laying people off or cutting pay.
  7. Create a bonus incentive for hitting goals in quality, productivity and waste. (If pay has to be cut, add a bonus for greater gains if goals are achieved.)
  8. Meet with employee regularly to update progress, issues and new challenges.

I have seen employees step up and show 25%, 56%, 75%, 122% gains on their goals.

What are your thoughts or experiences on this?

Managers that use the “hammer” as their initial strategy generally cause way more problems than they solve. Companies and managers that value employees as partners reap the benefits of higher loyalty, engagement and productivity. Companies that don’t see poorer results. It isn’t rocket science, or is it?

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Rick Conlow
Rick Conlow is the CEO & Founder of Rick Conlow International, a consulting, training and coaching firm. He has helped over 200 companies such as Target, Costco, Andersen Windows, Spectrum, Northern Power, Meijer, Carpet King, International Truck, John Deere, Lowes Financial, and Canadian Linen improve customer loyalty, increase sales and add profits. Rick has been a general manager, vice president, training director, program director, and national sales trainer. He has authored 22 books, and regularly speaks at conferences and to audiences of all sizes.
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