Three obvious issues arise when we have workers working odd hours by themselves. First is injury. While there is no OSHA regulation prohibiting a worker to work around dangerous equipment alone; they do have the capability of issuing a post-incident finding. In essence, it follows the logic: “While there’s no rule against it, obviously it was dangerous for management to allow the practice to exist because the injury occurred and was made worse because there was no one able to assist the injured worker. Therefore, a significant fine will be levied.” Ouch!
Second is inefficiency, which is the biggest issue. The press operator may need new plates because he catches a typo that needs correction, so he takes the job off the press and sets up another one while waiting for the prepress guy to show up. A bindery worker cuts a job wrong and it has to be redone, so it waits for others to show up, losing valuable time.
A production worker has a question that goes unanswered. A prepress person needs to tell the press operator something about the job, but since she won’t see him before its run she writes it down, and that usually doesn’t work that well. A CSR who works alone covering the phones until 5:00, gets a call from your biggest customer and can only say, “I don’t know; it will have to wait until morning.”
Third is the less likely but always possible event that you need the field goal kicker to be able to respond to a significant customer request. You need to set some type, plate, print, and cut it before the customer leaves on a flight tonight. So, we need to field the team when the customer wants us to be there. You decide when that is and get the workers there. And if you are wrong and need to change hours, then change the hours and get your team there then.
Okay, now let me address what many of you are concerned about. I’ve got a great press operator who works from 3:00-11:00 a.m. You may be wondering how to change that. One script for that is, “Ronnie, I need you to begin working every day from 8:00 to 5:00 beginning the first of the month. Do you have any questions?”
Then deal with the “yeah, but” by leading the worker to a proper conclusion. “Yeah, but I have to drop the kids off to school.”
“Okay, so what can you do about that?”
“There’s nothing I can do about that because I have to do it that way.”
“I am sorry that there is nothing you can do about it, but our business requires us to be available to our customers from 8:00 to 5:00 and that means your job requires you to be here between 8:00 and 5:00. I know we have had other arrangements in the past, but we’re changing that. So are you sure there’s nothing you can do about it?”
And yes, the bottom line is whether the person chooses to conform to the job so they can continue on the team or not. It’s not you being hard, mean, or unreasonable. It is about you legislating what the worker needs to do. They may want to work from 3:00 to 11:00, but what they need is a good paycheck and job security, and that means they need to work from 8:00 to 5:00 so the business can do what it needs to do, which is acquire and retain customers.
What if you don’t need to be available to customers from 8:00 to 5:00, but can accommodate the worker’s request to work from 8:30 to 5:00? Change the hours if you wish. But it is up to the leader to legislate hours. Workers don’t get to choose when they want to work. The leader must decide and then legislate. You can have the most perfect worker in the world on your team, but if they aren’t present when you need them, then they are a zero and the team suffers.
Getting workers to work at appropriate times is the first test of the leader. If you can’t do that, you will be unable to direct them in other ways. The way you get them there is simple. We have a job from 8:00 until 5:00, Monday through Friday. I understand you would prefer to work from 3:00 until 8:00 a.m.; but I don’t have a job that meets that schedule. Would you be interested in the job we have?
Next month we will discuss other areas where the leader must legislate.
Tom Crouser is principal of Crouser & Associates, Inc., 4710 Chimney Drive, Charleston, WV 25302, 304/965-7100. You may reach Tom at email@example.com. And check out the unique business opportunity for small press printers offered by CPrint International at www.cprint.org. Follow Tom weekdays on Twitter at www.twitter.com/tomcrouser. This article is available as a podcast at www.quickprinting.com/podcast and from iTunes.