At the start of the year, I resolved to get more organized. I watched a whole bunch of YouTube videos about how to tidy up your Tupperware (did it – yay!), clean out your laundry room (did that too – double yay!) and straighten your office (okay – still working on that one).
Being more organized is a hugely popular new year’s resolution and there’s an entire industry of professional organizers to help. But that’s not the type of organization this blog is about…
Last week, my partner, Sean, and I had a planning day. We updated our business plan and had a strategic planning session, taking a close look at a SWOT (strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats) analysis of our present situation. After doing this, we came up with three key areas we’d like to focus on for the year. We are creating systems and processes to ensure we close identified operational gaps and set 2023 off on a strong foot.
Since we launched our company, my partner, Sean, and I have talked to our clients. We’ve asked them to share their biggest concerns and pain points and we’ve looked at ways we can help. So, this blog is about alternative ways to get organized—looking at the systems and processes you have in place (or should have) to tackle some of these big concerns and make life better at work.
Big Concern #1 – We Just Can’t Seem to Get Enough Technicians
This is really a shared concern, seemingly, across all the skilled trades. We hear, time and time again, about how hard it is to find qualified technicians and everyone seems to be recruiting for them. We’re not recruiters, so I won’t tell you how to hire. Instead, I want to focus on how to retain those technicians you have.
The stories going on out there would have you believe technicians are only focused on the money. Certainly, it’s a highly competitive environment and technicians are leaving their jobs to go to competitors who pay them as little as $1 per hour more. Sure, it’s a factor—maybe even a big factor—but $1 per hour isn’t enough to make an appreciable change on a paycheque. When I hear about this, I immediately ask questions about the real reason these people leave. Generally, I hear they left because they’re getting paid more buuuut they started looking because they didn’t appreciate the way they were treated on the job. So, once again, it comes down to the fact they don’t like their managers.
This is not a surprise. Managers are the biggest reason people leave their jobs. Compensation, benefits, recognition programs, etc. must be in place and competitive. But it’s the way people are treated at work that makes them want to stay… or go.
How to Fix It
Begin by talking to your employees. Do an employee engagement survey and look at the results. Don’t just sweep what you learn under the mat. Use it to change the culture in your workplace. Demonstrate that you’ve heard and understood what employees are telling you by putting things into action.
Some of the most common problems cited in engagement surveys centre around communication and collaboration. Institute a practice of one-on-one conversations in your workplace and make managers accountable for holding them. Getting communication flowing in this way will lead to better understanding not only between manager and employee, but amongst team members as well.
Invest in soft skills training for your supervisors and managers. Ensure they have the leadership and communication skills they need to connect with their team members. Most people are put in positions of people leadership without any training, and they struggle. Only 1 in 10 managers has the natural talent for people leadership. The rest of them, frankly, do a bad job, as evidenced by how many people quit, or do the bare minimum they can get away with. Soft skills training, focused on building listening and understanding, can go a long way to improving workplace culture, and retention.
Big Concern #2 – Supply Chain Issues
Ah, supply chain. The world is still struggling with inventory issues, even after all this time. I can’t ramp up the world’s manufacturing. Nope—I’m just not that powerful. However, I can help you with being more prepared for inventory demands.
It’s a matter of strategic planning and inventory management. Those in decision-making roles have to take a long look at inventory planning and allocation. While I don’t have a crystal ball to foretell what your customers will demand, I can tell you there’s a way to make a pretty educated guess.
How to Fix It
Review your parts and service demand from last year, and 3 to 5 years before that. Gain a clear perspective of what your customers have needed historically, and use that to plan for the year. In addition, consider any shortfalls you may have had and business you may have lost because of those shortfalls. Talk to your employees and ask what they remember about supply chain woes and add that information to your retrospective. Consider also what kind of growth you’ve experienced over the last year and what that will mean in terms of demand this year. Be sure to take into account seasonal demand and factor that into your plans. Map out your demand forecast and track it. Being proactive in this way can mean you are not reacting to client demand and forced to lose business because you’re not ready for it.
Big Concern #3 – Professional Development for You and Your Employees
Thinking back to Concern #1, one of the key factors in retaining good employees is offering them chances for development. This is also important for continuous improvement of the organization as a whole. Smart companies put a focus on the continued growth of their people, as it adds to the overall success of the business.
It’s important to build on the technical skills of your people, as well as pay attention to safety training (that’s a must!). But, it’s also key to build on the less tangible soft skills (or, as we like to call them, power tools) of your employees—technicians and managers alike.
In order to build the best possible relationships with customers, technicians need to have strong communication and people skills. In order to build the best possible relationships with employees, anyone in a people-management position needs to develop their interpersonal skills so as better to connect with and retain those who report to them.
How to Fix It
As above, invest in soft skills training. This time, think about it for your whole team—technicians included. Create a professional development plan for each employee and track progress. Everyone in the organization will benefit from improving their knowledge and skills in this area. It will pay off in improved company culture, better productivity, and increased customer satisfaction.
This year, focus on 1, 2, or maybe all three of these concerns and start making your company a great place to be. By doing careful analysis and putting new programs and processes in place, you can be more productive, more proactive, and happier in your work.