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More intensive coaching needed

By Hugh Alley   

General Operations Manufacturing Coaching management manufacturing training workers

People learn better when they get feedback.

Ask for feedback. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

Ask for feedback. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

Too often employees are provided with a new piece of information or shown a new procedure, then left to figure it out, but without feedback they’re unlikely to master it.

Professional sports teams are masters at giving feedback to their players and have more than one coach looking for patterns of behaviour that are helping or hurting performance. But there are differences between pro sports teams and plants (many of which with few coaches) that influence the need for feedback:

• Pro athletes are paid more, but employees are in charge of machines and material worth millions of dollars. Call it even.
• Pro athletes only compete a few hours a week. The rest of the time they have practices. Employees are playing for real every moment they’re at work. Greater need for feedback: employees.
• Pro athletes are very carefully selected, with only a few hundred making it to the pro leagues. Employees are selected from among 10 or so that get an interview, and they didn’t hone their skills in a junior league. Greater need for coaching: employees.

It’s tough for supervisors with more than 15 people reporting to them to spend time observing work, let alone make frequent meaningful comments.

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Ask yourself three questions:
1. Do your employees get enough feedback about their performance to improve the overall performance of your company?
2. Do your leaders (supervisors, leads, managers) have the skills to deliver effective feedback?
3. Are your leaders clear about their roles in providing feedback to team members, and they’re supported by formal and informal reward systems?

If you’re not happy with the answers, ask yourself what feedback you’ve been giving to people recently. Challenge yourself to provide them with regular feedback about what’s important for the business. This will have as much of a positive training effect as any amount of instruction.

Hugh Alley is president of First Line Training Inc. in Burnaby, BC, which focuses on increasing productivity by improving the skills of front line managers and supervisors.

This article appears in the March 2015 issue of PLANT.

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