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HUMAN RESOURCES

Energizing Teams of Hourly Workers

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  • Problem-solving approach. W.L. Gore & Associates, in Newark, Del., puts employees through a rigorous hiring process to be sure that everyone who's hired fits its unique culture. No more than 200 employees are in any one facility so that employees know one another; there are no titles, no special offices, no perks, just the ability -- and the assumption -- that anyone can talk to anyone else about any problem that needs to be solved. Leaders emerge in groups on the basis of the trust inspired by their judgment.
  • Best fit. According to Henry Sims Jr., management professor at the University of Maryland, team-managed companies work best in creative and innovative environments. They were also found to be more productive when they had the ability to change how things were done and take action themselves.
  • Teams that fit. When San Francisco-based Levi Strauss switched to a team-based system, it hoped to reduce monotony and too-specialized tasks on the assembly lines. It quickly found that high performers tended to resent slower-performing members of the teams, so everyone was challenged to help the less capable members of the team.
  • Nothing to squawk at. Chick-fil-A marketing coordinator Tara Hayes, in Jackson, Miss., produces a newsletter featuring teams from local units. Individual accomplishments both at work and outside are highlighted. She also shares a feature story on a particular team.
  • Stepping aside. At General Electric's plant in Bayamó n, Puerto Rico, cross-departmental teams are organized to discuss how suggested changes or improvements will affect each part of the operation. Hourly workers (associates) run the meetings, while managers (advisers) intervene only at the request of the team. Productivity has increased 20% since the approach began.

Copyright 1999 Bob Nelson, used with permission of the author. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Bob Nelson's Rewarding Employees newsletter.




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