Volume 41, Issue 10 - October 2006

DearUSG

Reviewing the Musical Chair Syndrome

Dear USG: 
I am responding to Dez Farnady’s article “Musical Chairs” in the August 2006 issue of USGlass (see page 8). 

Anyone who has been in this industry for more than a couple of years will know exactly what it feels like to be on both sides of the musical-chairs game. With the exception of a fortunate few (Dez being one) the job-change game is an expected part of our industry.

We have all seen the “glass-rejects” popping up in various incarnations with other companies. This will not change as long as we continue to believe that these guys will perform better or cost less than training an enthusiastic employee from scratch. The cost in dollars and to the company’s reputation is a high price to pay when these types of hires do not work out.

I always ask a prospective employee why he or she is thinking about leaving his or her present position. Relocation and downsizing aside, the answer usually falls into one of two categories: they no longer feel challenged in their present position or they feel unappreciated.

Most of the managers, supervisors and office/plant personnel I have worked with, hired or lost over the years have all had one thing in common: they were looking for a home. They want to be part of a successful team where they can contribute, learn and be appreciated for their part and be appreciative of others for theirs. If this is a common thread, why, then, do we, as managers, consistently fail to listen to our team members and continually ignore the warning signs that support the musical-chair syndrome? We will hire a plant employee for a couple of dollars an hour more than our in-house trainees because he has “experience,” all the while forgetting the experience our own guys have gained while learning from our expertise. We will pigeonhole employees because they are good in a particular area, only to burn their enthusiasm. We are all guilty of this at one time or another. So, how do we improve our performance? The good old under-utilized, rushed through, forgotten or “I just don’t have time to spare” review.

The review process is one of the most valuable tools at our disposal. Done correctly, which does take time, a review will set goals. Career goals, improvement goals, cross-training goals and monetary goals. The employee has a clear picture of what is or is not expected, what can be done to help them grow with the company and what monetary issues can be agreed upon. We, as managers, get to hear—really hear—what our team feels and needs to keep them contributing for many years to come. The time spent on reviews does not come easy. We all have tough schedules, short lead times and a hundred other things pulling at our shirttails every day; however, quality, one-on-one time spent with employees pays back so much in the long term that it is difficult to understand why a review is so often allowed to slip down on the priority list. Not all reviews have to involve money. Just the noting of improvements or a “continue the good work” is worth its weight in gold. The thrill of turning an underachiever around and watching him grow into a valuable team member feels pretty good, too.

There you have it. A simple way to stay in touch with your team, improve communication and feel good about yourself in the process, and if we are really diligent, cut the musical-chair syndrome before it kicks in.

Jim Fairley 
General Glass International
Secaucus, N.J.

USG
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