18 FABRICARE We have a limited number of people who want to work in this industry. The labor market is thin and unlikely to change. What can be done? I wish I had a magic formula for you. I don’t but I do have some suggestions. CONFRONTATION If employees in your plant state, "it's their way or the highway," you likely have a big problem. First, how did this happen? Being asleep at the wheel, that’s how. When piece counts declined, we did not reduce staff hours. If you do 4,000 pieces and everybody works 40 hours, do all the production people work 35 hours when you do 3,500 pieces? Probably not. (Pardon me for over-simplifying this example to illustrate the point.) When piece counts declined, we acted like Hem and Haw in the motivational book Who Moved My Cheese: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life. We waited for things to return to normal, instead of accepting the new normal. This can lead to employees failing to understand the amount of money they make is proportional to the amount of pieces coming through your doors. “QUITTERS” I have seen how if someone threatens to “quit," they may presume you will succumb to their wishes. If you don’t, they sometimes recant their resignation. I worked with a management-level employee who didn’t like what was happening, so he submitted a three-month notice. He figured over the next three months the boss would change his tune. A plant manager in California told her boss she was quitting but when we let that happen, she came back the next day and said, “When I told you I was quitting, why didn’t you try to get me to stay?” Some employees think it’s a game. In northern California, I was working at a plant with five pants pressers. How many did they need? One. Really. They had the owner brainwashed into thinking this was what they needed. A drycleaner in Anchorage refuses to hang clothes he has taken out of the drycleaning machine. He gets a helper, because he wants one. The same drycleaner also doesn’t spot. I asked him if he did any spot removal. He said, “I never really got involved with that.” This drycleaner, working at a plant that did 1,350 pieces per week (not a typo), had two helpers because he refused to do any more than load and unload the drycleaning machines. TURN IT AROUND So what can you do about this? There is no easy remedy, but you can get the tide to start flowing the other way. Try these steps: 1. Start with new hires. When you hire them, make it clear that in this business, hours are commensurate with volume. Never guarantee 40 hours or pay a salary for a production employee whose hours must work in concert with the number of pieces. 2. Have an employee meeting that explains your new policies. Hours are proportional with pieces. A heads-up will help and explaining this in a meeting will keep an employee from feeling like they are being singled out. Remind them businesses, by design, must be profitable. 3. Employees will resist working harder because they know it means they will work fewer hours and make less money. Consider combining a couple of jobs. Consider the example of the five pants pressers when they only needed one. All of them worked a full week, about 35 continued from page 17 FE ATURE continued on page 34