Monday, September 5, 2011

Worker Motivation in the Workplace

Company success requires a team effort. If any part of the team fails, then the entire team has failed. One of the biggest things our FBI instructors stressed during SWAT school was that “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”, in other words if a weak link in a chain fails, then the entire chain has failed.

In any company, in any endeavor, if one process is not completed, not completed correctly, or not completed on time, then the entire process is delayed, incomplete, or not completed at all. Bottom line is that the project failed, therefore the team or company has failed. In a SWAT team, each member has different and specific duties to make the team a success. If one of them fails to perform their function properly, the results could be catastrophic for the rest of the team.

I used the lessons I learned as a member and a leader of a SWAT team and applied them while working as a supervisor is a Trust Accounting department back in the early 90’s. When I first arrived there I noticed that each of the people I supervised had specific time sensitive duties that needed to be accomplished every day. If someone was out sick for the day, those duties still needed to be accomplished on time and it was up to the staff to accomplish those tasks. It usually fell upon one person to fill in for the person who was out and perform their normal tasks at the same time, usually because there was only one other person who knew how to do the tasks which needed to be done. This created tremendous stress for the person who got stuck doing the work of two people.

I identified this as a serious morale problem for the staff and immediately implemented a cross-training program as a resolution. Each person spent a couple of hours once a week working at and learning the duties of another station. Once they were able to perform the duties of that station, they moved on to learn a third station. On a regular basis they would spend time at one of the other two stations to remain proficient and to learn any new changes in procedures. Whenever someone was out sick or on vacation at least two people could split the duties thus lightening the workload.

No more learning as they went along. They were comfortable and confident in what they were doing and it appeared that they were hardly fazed by the absence of a team member. The work was completed on time and the staff’s nerves were still intact. More importantly, the team was more motivated and more successful.

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