The key to business success in the 1980's and beyond, is productivity. The recipe for employee productivity is comprised of numerous ingredients; but the key ingredient is management. Efficient and effective management is a combination of various managerial styles, each designed to productivity among employees.
No combination of management styles, no philosophy nor progressive labor relations program will be effective if employees do not complement and extend the goals of management. The major problem and objective then is to find those employees who are highly motivated, while appreciating and understanding their roles as team players. How do you find such employees?
A technique that has proven successful for creating positive employee attitudes and productivity is the development of a profile that depicts the positive attributes of the optimum employee. A composite or profile of essential characteristics and attributes (which are not personality traits) can provide the simplest and most thorough technique for finding and keeping those employees who can establish the necessary leadership and initiative for high-level of productivity.
The management-labor department of Pechner, Dorfinan, Wolffe, Rounick and Cabot, has developed a test for determining an employee profile, and it has been successfully utilized by a number of Fortune 500 companies. Attributes contained in the employee profile are not personality characteristics. The attributes represent a distillation of the prospective employees past work experience. The profile seeks to determine what the prospective employee has "learned" about work in general and employers in particular. Such learning experiences create propensities and attributes which will become evident through the selection process.
The development of the employee profile begins with a thorough analysis of the employer's work force. In an ongoing facility, analyzing the existing work force must be approached from two perspectives. First, the necessary skills required by the employer must be determined; second, the profile must show how the existing work force can be categorized in regard to specific skills. In a company, such as a small automobile parts wholesaler, located in the Northeast, it was relatively easy to determine skill and ability levels of employees, since the company had been operating for more than 15 years.
To determine skill levels, a series of interviews with employees, management, and line supervisors was undertaken. Next, a detailed (computerized) survey of employee attitudes towards their employer and work was undertaken. The results of that process were factored into the creation of the profile, which was then specifically tailored to the needs of the company. This small, but flourishing, business handily survived the recent recession.
A different process had to be developed for use in a large plant. For instance, another program was called for in a large industrial plant, which was going to be located in the Southwestern portion of the United States. The analysis of workforce involved a projected employee complement based on the prior experiences of the company, utilizing similar facilities producing similar products. The company provided data, concerning the number and category of employees. A sophisticated workforce analysis was performed, mapping out when and how each type of employee would be needed.
Once the necessary skill and ability levels have been determined and there has been an analysis of employee attitudes, the relevant labor market must be examined. (In both situations, the relevant labor market was considered to be the geographic area surrounding the facility). Demographic, general economic, socioeconomic, wage and other labor data for the relevant labor market were garnered.
The data was analyzed with the assistance of a computer. The analysis enabled us to identify the likelihood of individuals possessing the desired skills and abilities. Having determined the existence and concentrations of individuals with the desired skills and abilities, we interviewed other companies within the relevant labor market to determine the attitude of their employees.
To buttress the information we derived from the computer, we selected local "leaders" and interviewed them. They included guidance-counselors in local high schools, in vocational-technical training schools, and opinion leaders from the community. These individuals were able to give deeper insight into the types, attitudes, local mores, and tradition of employees within the labor market.
In the plant in the Southwest, the analysis of the data indicated that within the relevant labor market, there existed a substantial pool of employees with the necessary skills and abilities. However, that analysis also indicated that these individuals were primarily employed within other large industrial concerns which were unionized. There did not appear to be a substantial surplus of individuals who possessed the higher-level skills necessary to operate the new facility.
As we moved down the hierarchy of skills, the availability of individual increased. Nevertheless, the analysis of the demographic and labor data indicated that even at the lower end of the skills hierarchy, many of the prospective employers would have either direct or indirect experiences with unionized employers. Since one of the goals of the start-up facility was to maintain its pro-employee, management style, the existence of many individual: with prior union experience was of concern. Nevertheless, based on the information that was available, we would be able to screen out those individuals who would not work well within the company environment, regardless of prior union experience.
The most effective means for ascertaining the profile attributes remained die interview process. Interviewers were instructed in how to review employment applications and supporting documents. Interview questions had been designed and tested in the early stages of hiring. Questions were refined as a result of feedback from the interviewers. As a result of the testing and feedback process, core of questions was developed. They determined attitudes, which were used in conjunction with typical job-skills questions to screen applicants.
In the start-up situation, a group of core questions involved previous supervision. Interviewers asked die following group of questions: "Tell me about your last supervisor? What were his or her best points? What were his or her worst points? What role do you believe a supervisor should play in the work place? Have you ever been a supervisor? Are you interested in becoming a supervisor here?" Such questions were designed to elicit two of the major profile attributes.
First, was the applicant willing to view his workplace situation from both sides? An applicant whose response indicated understanding and/or empathy for the position of supervisors was a positive trait.
Second, the interviewers were instructed to find out if a prospective employee made any efforts to make his supervisor's job easier. Responses which indicated the applicant compromised toward a common good and made other efforts to work well with the supervisor were regarded as highly positive.
The response to questions concerning the desire to be a supervisor was examined not from the prospective of whether the employee would make a good supervisor, but from how the employee viewed the supervisor's job. For instance, an applicant who indicated that he would never want to be a supervisor would most likely be indicating distrust for management.
A similar analysis was performed for each of the core questions which formed the profile interview. The interviewers were provided with sample responses and an analysis of those responses was subsequently undertaken. The process clearly becomes more valuable as the interviewers gain experience using it.
The experience in the start-up facility proved highly successful; it demonstrated that the initial cadre of employees exceeded all expectations for productivity and ability. In addition, they worked exceedingly well with their supervisors.