Archive | October, 2011

Management Tactics for Improving Interdepartmental Lateral Communications

31 Oct

Continuing with the discussion on improving the dissemination of company news and information within a company, we come to the communication Channel that I affectionately call interdepartmental lateral communication. Wow, big name, what this means is communications between individuals on the same pay grade in different departments.

This is where the most distortion in communications can occur. Some of the reasons for messages getting distorted when traveling across this channel are that different departments use different jargon, have animosity, don’t respect one another, and can often have no idea how the other departments contribute to the businesses bottom line.

To clear these problems up, I suggest having a training session by a paid communications expert, or having online training sessions in communications. This will have the quick impact of clearer communications, but you are still left with the problem of indifference between departments.

When fixing this problem you need to take into consideration that all the departments in your organization need to work in synergy to complete countless objectives on a daily basis. Knowing this is half the battle, the other half knows what it costs when they don’t. To give you an idea what the cost is, have a look at this site: http://contactpointassoc.com/Pdfs/CComm-CostofMiscom.pdf . Miscommunication gets very expensive, very fast!

To cut down on this error, a manager can institute a mandatory secondary line of communication. What I mean by this is that if an employee in payroll has a misunderstanding in communication with an employee in human resources while communicating through email, they will have to go to a secondary line of communication such as phone and in person.

Try these recommendation, they will pay off! Some of these may seem familiar, but the last recommendation is one of my very own. I hope someone finds validity in it, and even puts it into action, and reaps the ROI of clearer interdepartmental lateral communications.

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Managerial Tactics for Improving Lateral Communications

29 Oct

The need for lateral communication, between employees of the same pay grade and in the same department, is pivotal for the administration of business. The management at a firm can increase the effectiveness of lateral communication through many different actions. A few of which I would like to describe.

On occasion you might hear about the effectiveness of social networks, and how they help to keep in contact with your grandma and friends. This is one of the biggest ways communication is changing, and can bring great benefits to lateral communications in a company. Development of digital social networks for use in lateral communications will allow employees to not only discuss trends, applications of solutions, and business matters, but give them a sense of connectedness that will promote workforce cohesiveness.

Another managerial tactic that can improve lateral communications is having luncheons for specific departments. If you have an annual luncheon for your logistics workers, workers of the same pay grade and position in the company, you can foster some good working relationships between your employees. They can add faces to the voices they talk to over the phone, and voices to the people they communicate with through email every day.

The main idea here is to build communication lines between employees of the same level. Doing so will foster some healthy working relationships, allow employees to collaborate on problem solving, and grow a feeling of connection with and within your company. This is sure to have a positive effect on the bottom line, and bring about clearer and more concise communications between your employees, both on the same level and throughout the organization.

Managerial Tactics for Downstream Communications

26 Oct

In my last post I started to discuss the different channels of communication in a company. I would like to again stress the importance of these channels. They are the backbone of business, facilitating the dissemination of information amongst employees in all companies. I would like to dig a little deeper into these communication channels and take a look at how contemporary business practices have differed from the status quo. And to examine how the evolution of managerial tactics has increased communication effectiveness and efficiency.

To start the discussion, I wanted to examine the ways companies have historically disseminated information from the executive and management level to the subordinate level. Historically companies have had a one way approach (this is how we see it, this is how you will deal with it, and that’s just how it is). This approach was efficient at the time, but lead to the development of union (groups of employees that gathered together to have a collective voice) because the employees at the subordinate level were being, well, subordinated.

Employees at this level need to know that they have an opinion, know their niche in the company, and have something to offer up the communications pipeline. I understand that CEO’s have a lot to do, and they can’t sit around answering every email requesting pointless solutions to superfluous problems. But employees can be informed that they have the right in your firm to offer an opinion, suggest a solution to a problem, and be part of the company at all levels.

Allowing upstream communication, which many firms do now, empowers employees and leads to them feeling like they have a stake in operations at all levels, even the top. Now, I understand that as an executive you don’t have time to answer all questions, suggestions, and etcetera. The key to making this work for executives (perk being increased employee productivity) and the employee (perk being intrinsic motivation) is to, as upper management, send these messages back out to the respective departments that handle the issues addressed in them.

This will open the employees’ suggestions up to peer review and scrutinizing. By doing this, upper management doesn’t have to deal with each message they receive, and employees can get their voice heard by the department that handles their issue or suggestion, with the added validity of having someone in upper management forwarding their communications. This process is solid, give it a try, I know it works.

Disseminating Company News and Information

21 Oct

The spread of company news and information amongst its employees is a vital part of any firm. The benefits of each individual in a company knowing what is going on in the company currently and what is coming up in the future is a vital part of any industry.

Keeping employees up to date on what’s going on in the company doesn’t always present itself as the primary objective of managers and executives, so information spread throughout the company can find many channels for dissemination. The fact of the matter is that these channels are the inner communication network in a company and are vital to its operations.

A few of these channels are downstream communication (from executive/management to lower employees), lateral communication (amongst employees in the same department, of the same pay grade), interdepartmental lateral communication (amongst employees in different departments but of the same pay grade), and the ever-present grapevine.

Each of these different communication pathways presents its own challenges and benefits when it comes to spreading information throughout the company; thus each deserves attention. The analysis of each of these communication pathways and evolution of these pathways through changing business environments deserves analysis and study in attempt to understand the impact that the current business climate in this country has on each.

 In the postings to come I plan to dive into each of these communication pathways and examine the way they have been impacted by the current state of business in the economy. And to examine ways in which contemporary managerial tactics, as opposed to customary managerial tactics, can help move information throughout a company with accuracy, clarity, and ease.

Different Employees Different Motivation

17 Oct

Each employee is motivated by different things, one employee might be motivated by spending as much time at home as possible, another might be motivated by climbing the ladder as fast as possible. When considering motivating your employees, you should keep in mind that what they value is as unique as they are.

When I started going to college I had a lot of questions, like what do I want to be when I grow up ( I’m 26), what should I study in school, what is going to help me get a job, and will there be jobs in that field when I get my degree. So naturally I asked everyone in the office at work a million questions until I figured it all out.

I ended up going to college for a degree in business management. As I got deeper into my schooling I had a lot more questions, not about my own path, but about the characteristics of a manager. One question still stands out in my mind, how you deal with employees. I got the answer from the logistics manager at work, Dave Mindnich. Dave told me that every employee is different, and you have to deal with them on an individual basis.

Back to the point, employees are all different and you must work to motivate them in the fashion that they are best motivated in. This DOES mean getting to know your employees on an individual basis, and understanding their fundamental values.

What differentiates a good manager from a great manager is not the ability to motivate the masses to be productive, but to gain a fundamental understanding of what motivates each individual that works for you and try to help them achieve their goals.

Get to know your employees, even if you have thousands of them directly under you, you have time to spend a few seconds with each one and get to know what makes them tick. Write it down, make a spread sheet of names and personality types, and keep track of them. Most importantly let your employees know that you are doing this, and that you care what they value, the ROI on this will be off the chart.

Review and Reward Employee Productivity

15 Oct

Here we are at the third part of improving employee productivity, reviewing and rewarding employee productivity. This is the step that completes the circle and makes the process of improving productivity cyclical. You start with evaluating and end with rewarding, when productivity needs to improve you start the cycle again by evaluating the level of output and setting new goals. But the end of the cycle is all about reviewing and rewarding.

Reviewing employee productivity is easier than it seem. What it entails is comparing their tracked output to the benchmarks that we set when we set up the system to evaluate their output. This means that if we set a benchmark of 200 units per hour per employee, and an employee has met or exceeded this output we should look to reward this employee.

On the issue of rewards, the part that scares managers the most, we need to take a good hard look at what the company is getting for their money. The system of setting up periodic or plant-wide performance bonuses DOES NOT WORK!!!! It is unfortunate, but as a manager you have to do your job and evaluate the performance of your employees, each and every one of them. You have to sit them down, look them in the eye, and tell them that they have met and exceeded their output goals , and that they are being rewarded for their work. I can understand that large corporations have to reward multiple employees at one time, sometimes thousands of people on a monthly basis, but at the very least they should send a letter to each employee thanking them for their work.

The way that you go about rewarding your employees is a direct reflection of the value assigned to each person working for you. Companies should embrace the achievement of a common goal, but they should recognize the individual efforts that got them there. Each employee is part of an integral team that works in synergy to achieve a common goal, yet each individual struggles through their own barriers to dedicate themselves to the goals of the unit. Keep in mind your own part as a manager in the process, and that your employees play their own part as well.

Improving Employee Performance

10 Oct

In the preceding posts I have been explaining three steps to take to improve employee productivity; the three step process is as follows: measure employee productivity in your company, implement a process for improving employee productivity, and review and reward employee productivity.

The last post dealt with setting up a system to measure employee productivity in your firm. Now, I hope that every firm has such a system in place, but if you don’t please refer to my last posting for assistance with the process. I would like to turn your attention to the second step in the process, a step that I feel is under- attended to, implement a process for improving employee productivity. It is my opinion that this step does not receive enough attention, and I intend to outline a few quick tips that you can take to improve employee productivity.

To implement a process you need to know what the current level of output is, and what you want it to be. Then the process gets a little industry specific, but the overall idea is to take babe steps.

 For example, you see that your production lines are putting out 200 units an hour when your target is 300, that there are multiple variables in your process, and that your equipment changes employee hands multiple times in a 24 hour period. What you would want to do is possibly put up visual tracking boards to show output goal progress to your employees. This would allow your employees to know when they have to kick their production efforts into overdrive.

When addressing the multiple variables in your process, you might want to implement a training program that brings your employees up to par on all of the variables. You might also want to make your pay raises contingent on employees taking general technology tests.  Take these steps and you should get your employees up to snuff on all the variables in your process.

If your process equipment changes hands multiple times (possibly due to shift changes) a great way to get a handle on the changes is to find equipment set points and make it mandatory that your employees revert equipment back to set points when they get off track. Also, this is a contradiction to the premise that it is all about the bottom line, but you should consider having shifts overlap by a few minutes to assist with turnover.

Now you have an idea on where to go with this process, and you will be able to implement a process to improve employee productivity. The beauty of it is that if you spend a few days in other industries, a few days on your production lines, and tour other production facilities you will get a strong idea of what you can use in your own firm.