4 Skills Every Plant Manager Needs

4 Skills Every Plant Manager Needs

As of September 2018, the current unemployment rate in the United States is 3.7 percent. According to Trading Economics, this is the lowest U.S. jobless rate since December 1969. As long as unemployment rates remain this low, employer competition for talent and employee expectations for their employers will be high. This climate amplifies the need for manufacturers to develop managers who are able to cultivate a culture that current employees want to remain a part of and future employees want to join. Inherently, managers are the hands, mouthpiece and face of a company –– playing a vital role in creating or crippling morale.

While the American Management Association has identified 14 core competencies required for managers to build a healthy workforce, this article will focus on four skills that can enhance a manager’s effectiveness in everything from hiring to day-to-day operations.

1. New Employee Onboarding

Studies have shown the first 90 days of employment determine whether a new hire will remain at a company and how productive that hire will be. Ultimately, managers facilitate the success or failure of a new hire during this critical period and beyond.

Countless training methodologies reinforce that an employee’s immediate supervisor sets the tone for how he or she views the company, conveying and embodying a company’s policies, culture and identity. At the end of the day, new employee orientation is only as successful as a manager’s preparation, training and understanding.

From explaining a company’s history to establishing common goals to clearly reviewing job descriptions, a comprehensive checklist is key to successful orientation. Was a new employee immediately and warmly welcomed into the team? Was the importance of their job to the company’s success vocalized? Was a manager’s personal confidence in the employee expressed? Were co-workers briefed on the new employee’s background and responsibilities? Did you assign a sponsor or mentor? Did you schedule a one-week follow up?

Poor orientation efforts often negate the time and resources invested in recruiting. However, a successful orientation and onboarding process can generate conversations between supervisors and employees that establish trust and open communication early on, supporting long-term team-building and retention.

2. Employee Coaching

It’s a simple truth — low confidence translates into low achievement, while high confidence translates into high achievement. Building this confidence is the ultimate objective of effective employee coaching.

In a survey of U.S. hourly employees and salaried managers, participants were asked to rank various work factors in order of importance. Managers ranked good wages, job security and promotion/growth as their top three work factors, while employees ranked full appreciation for work done, feeling “in” on things and sympathetic understanding of personal problems as their top three considerations. The results stress employees’ desire and need for positive performance recognition, ongoing coaching and the importance of expressing care and concern for those on the team.

For many managers, coaching skills must be developed through management training. This training should equip managers with the ability to provide specific, consistent and timely performance-based reinforcement. Managers should be able to articulate why an employee’s performance is important for both the employee and the company, among other factors.

In recognizing growth, you’re allowing for improved employee productivity. An employee’s own motivation is a powerful factor. When employees feel appreciated, heard and valued, company morale improves, which often leads to a more engaged, energized and efficient work performance. Cultivate a positive, feedback-driven culture that recognizes good work, and that is what employees will continue to deliver.

3. Active Listening

For companies that believe they have personnel issues but are not able to pinpoint a root cause, it often boils down to breakdowns in communication. Organizations that improve most dramatically in this area are those that teach and practice active listening. Active listening is not exclusively hearing what the other person is saying. It is also hearing yourself and being sensitive to the signals of your own body. Understanding your listening style helps you understand the way you process information and prepare your thoughts in order to respond. Equally as important as the words you speak, your posture and behavior should reflect your meaning.

You may be asking, “Why should I prioritize listening over other daily tasks?” The answer is because at least half of all communication time is spent listening. In fact, aside from breathing, experts assert that people listen more than any other activity.

4. Managing Change and Conflict

Change and conflict are natural parts of the human condition, but the way you respond to and manage their dynamics will determine the success of your team. Change management must start with open communication. Keep team members up to date by presenting change in a clear and positive way. Explain the benefits of evolution. Invite employees to participate in planning how to navigate the changes. The best employees want ownership in their jobs, and the top companies are providing it. Most importantly, communicate and encourage progress. The most sought-after employees will gravitate toward those corporations that foster growth and development.

When it comes to managing conflict, listen with a pen, gathering details and taking notes. Ask for employees’ objective opinions and possible solutions. Then, present your position clearly and focus on developing a win-win solution. End by thanking your employees for voicing their concern. The last thing you want to do is discourage future communication.

Training Is Key

From conflict to communication to coaching, a manager’s skills must be ever-evolving. The key ingredient is training. Good leaders and managers are rarely born; they’re developed. Effective managers are crucial for building and maintaining a strong team. People don’t leave bad companies; they leave bad managers. This turnover is costly, especially in the manufacturing sector, which saw a turnover rate of more than 30 percent in 2017. By investing in training that will grow your managers, your culture and your team, you ultimately will be growing your employee retention, your recruitment and your bottom line.

About the Author

Shelly Gary is president of ProManager, a Nashville-based provider of hands-on management training that increases company profits by reducing turnover, absenteeism and legal exposure. 

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