Think twice before promoting “Top-Performers”
By Justin Willbanks
In order to determine how well a given operation is running, I tend to focus initially on a couple of key criteria. The first, and most obvious, is the cleanliness of the facility. A good housekeeping program is key in any facility, regardless of industry. The next, and focus of this article, is the strength of front-line supervisors and leads. The success of almost any initiative (including the aforementioned housekeeping) is reliant on those closest to the workforce managing expectations and holding associates accountable. Whether it’s implementing a labor management program, continuous improvement program, or the most important of all, running the day-to-day operation, these key individuals on the floor can determine its success or failure. That’s why it’s all the more troubling when I see an extremely common practice taking place when it comes to selecting candidates for these positions. The practice of which I’m referring is automatically selecting the “top-performers” to attain these important roles.
I have multiple theories for why this is happening, but the most plausible to me is money. Most companies I’ve worked with have a ceiling in place for hourly employees and these top performers tend to reach that ceiling fairly quickly. And in today’s labor market, top performers are at a premium. When you combine that with the allure of moving to another company down the road for an extra $1.00/hour, managers are searching for any opportunity to keep these folks happy. The easy solution is often to promote them to leads and supervisors, even without possessing the crucial skills needed for these positions. Skills like respect (both giving and receiving), patience and effective communication are prime qualities these leaders should all possess. I firmly believe that managers owe it to themselves and everyone in the facility to properly vet any candidates for these vital leadership roles. In the end, everyone will be much better off for it.