Back to Basics: Getting and Keeping the Right People is Major Key to a Successful Pallet Company
Columnists Clarence Leising and Dick Burns, Recycling Consultants, point out things to look for when interviewing potential job candidates for a pallet shop.
By Clarence Leising & Dick Burns
Date Posted: 3/1/2011
Many businesses depend heavily on their employee team. While the pallet industry has made significant gains in productivity over the years, it is still much more labor intensive than so many manufacturing industries. Thus, it is important to hire the right people the first time and keep them properly motivated.
The pallet recycling industry is the most labor intensive part of our industry. Every used pallet requires making decisions and taking action on virtually every incoming used pallet and every piece of lumber.
When evaluating job applicants, the first thing we examine is a person’s ability to handle the physically taxing nature of working in a pallet recycling plant. Can this person do the job? This comment might not be politically correct, but it is true. Working in a pallet plant is hard work. Sometimes a person will fool you. A shorter, smaller in stature person may end up being a very good worker. But he had better be fit enough to hold up under the pounding that comes from lifting and handling pallets day in and day out. If a person is out of shape or overweight, he will probably have a very difficult time holding up under the daily grind.
It has also been my experience that a person is likely to be a much better worker if he has a reason for being there. Most of the best people on my team were in their 30s or 40s. They had families that depended on them, which is as good motivational tool. They were old enough to have some maturity but young enough to be able to hold up under the work load. Sometimes it helps to have an independent personality that drives both yourself and others. My experience is that 10% of the people drive the others.
Typically, 10% of the group is going to do as good as job as possible. Another 10% is going to put all their efforts into doing as little as they can get away with. The middle 80% can be pulled up or dragged down, depending entirely on how you manage them. If you concentrate most of your management efforts on the middle group, you can be successful.
People have studied what motivates an employee to do as good job. Guess what – it is not money. It is recognition and appreciation for their efforts. Happy employees mean more production, more production means more profit, and more profit makes for happy owners.
Having worked together for years managing pallet recycling plants, we have assembled some ideas that did not cost much if any money but successfully motivate people.
• Take each employee out to lunch on his birthday.
• Buy a small bouquet of flowers. Give them to the employee at the end of the day so he can go home and give them to his wife on her birthday. They are a gift to her from him, not the company.
• Give a gift certificate from Toys R Us for $10 or $15 on their children’s birthday.
Every employee gets a Safety Bingo card. Daily drawings are contingent on the shop being cleaned properly and no accidents or injuries. If the requirements are met, pick a number.
Have several different games and allow three winners per game. One game could be regular bingo. Another could be two at the same time. Assign prizes as you deem appropriate, with a grand prize for a complete card “black-out.”
If an employee is injured, his game ends and he starts anew the next day. If an employee is injured and misses time from work due to the injury, everyone’s game ends and starts over the next day.
Each employee is allowed two late days or two unexcused absences during the year. For each full week that an employee works, put $5 towards a Christmas bonus. At the end of the year, if an employee has not had more than two late days or two unexcused absences, double the bonus. This gives an employee the opportunity to earn up to an extra $520. It also puts the responsibility on the employee for the size of his bonus. Pay bonuses on Dec. 1 so employees have plenty of time to do their Christmas shopping.
Have a safety meeting once a month with all employees and provide lunch. You’ll have a chance to talk about safety issues and other things, too. More importantly, it gives you a chance to spend some friendly time with your employees and just shoot the bull. Make sure everyone feels welcome. Schedule the meetings at least a week in advance and hold them at a time when everyone can attend. We held ours on Fridays, and, yes, we paid them for this time.
Print small cards or certificates that say ‘Attaboy!’ Give them to employees who do a good job. Let employees accumulate them for a reward. For example, five ‘Attaboy’ awards earn them a free lunch, and 10 get them dinner for two.
Employee of the Month
Make up some simple nomination forms. During the month, have the shop foreman nominate employees for doing good things, filling out the forms and placing them into a box. At the end of the month, select the winner by drawing a nomination form at random from the box.
Give the winner a dinner for two and a special parking space or whatever you deem appropriate. After the winner is picked, give all the forms to the people who were nominated.
These are just a few ideas to begin or improve your ‘Employee Automation Program.’ These kinds of incentives can be rewarding for them, for you, and for your business. We spend a lot of time and resources on our customers, and we need to spend some of that time and some of those resources on our employees. If you make your employees happy, you will have a safe employee, and your customers will always be happy.
And remember, as former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara said, ‘Brains, like hearts, go where they are appreciated.’
Readers who would like to benefit from more of the wisdom and many suggestions that Clarence shared in his book Pallet Head may obtain an electronic digital copy (the printed version is out of print) by contacting us at 804-550-0323. We are considering developing a revised version of Pallet Head; in the mean time an electronic version is available for $24.95.
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