The most valuable asset in any manufacturing
organization is the people, and the most vital group is the
production floor employees. Without people who are willing to work
hard in the heat or cold, performing repetitive tasks at all hours
of the day and night, none of us would have a
As training professionals, whether based within a
single location or multiple sites, this group represents not only
your customer base but also a critical supplier of content and SME
support. I have learned many valuable lessons over the years
through watching others and through my own experiences that I would
like to share to assist you on your journey.
Small talk has a big impact.
People dont care what you know until they know you care. It only
takes a few minutes to build rapport with people. If you work in a
single facility, be sure to attend group activities and spend time
on the production floor daily and hang out in the break room often.
You want to be personable but maintain a healthy boundary of not
getting too personal. Take the time to remember a few small facts
about each person so you can ask them about their children,
hobbies, health, or any other areas of life that are important to
them. People might bump into you away from work; even if you dont
initially recognize them, always be friendly. Most important, be
yourself. People rarely trust phonies. If you are not natural at
making small talk then work at your own pace and be a good
Build rapport with boundaries.
Take time to get to know the local culture and dont be too eager to
jump in too quickly. Each facility has its own brand of humor and
sometimes it is exclusive to the natives. In the south,
lighthearted ribbing is often a term of endearment. Have a good
sense of humor and take it all in stride. Before you shoot back,
make sure you are accepted as part of the group and start slowly
once you have built rapport.
Be sure to set healthy boundaries. Co-workers may
occasionally come to you asking advice about personal matters such
as benefits, taxes, or relationships. Some people are indecisive
and want to rely on someone they perceive to be in a position of
authority to make their decisions for them. This can backfire if
they believe you are telling them what to do and it doesnt work
out. If they have personal problems you can listen, treat them with
respect, express concern, and help direct them to HR or your
companys employee assistance program.
This is especially important even if you are a
regional or corporate resource because you rely more heavily on
local resources and are viewed as a representative of the company.
Keep in mind the jokes about corporate people being here to help so
make sure you arent guilty of any attitude or actions that make you
appear to be distant, removed, or difficult.
Leave Lucky and Rolex at home. I
will never forget how my father (with a position at maintenance
working for a hospital) described the leaders who worked for his
employer. He described them either as ties or suits. For the ones
he respected, he described them in terms of how they listened or
would come into the maintenance shop to visit.
The leaders who seem to command the greatest
respect are those who present themselves as down to earth. Everyone
knows people in leadership and salaried roles have different pay
scales so there is no need to display signs of wealth by wearing
designer jeans or expensive jewelry. It makes you not only appear
to be an elitist but also as if you dont want to get dirty. Trust
me, lots of the production employees probably own Lucky jeans as
well; they just know better than to wear them to work. Wear the
team uniform so you can be comfortable on the production
One of the funniest things that ever happened to
me was wearing the same shirt as one of the trainees attending a
class I was delivering. It created an opportunity to build rapport
because we both shopped at the same discount
Check your ego at the door. Dont
make assumptions about people you dont know. Most people would be
surprised if they knew how many production employees have college
degrees and have chosen their current role for a variety of
reasons. This group of people is a gold mine of resources,
knowledge, and skill and theyre probably anxious to find an outlet
for challenge. Some of the leaders I have worked with whom have had
the greatest impact to their organizations are those who take the
time to listen to their employees at all level of the organization.
I remember my favorite plant manager used to take his lunch break
in one of the employee break rooms and always welcomed anyone in
the plant to sit with him.
Honesty is the best policy. Dont
think for one minute that there are any secrets across the plant
floor. Often people on the floor often know more than you do, so be
as honest as you can if someone asks you a question. There are
times when information is confidential and people understand that;
just make that clear. Being truthful builds trust. If people dont
trust you, you will not be successful in working with anyone
regardless of their position.
Be careful not to speculate. Depending upon your
perceived authority, people may repeat what you say and before you
know it the rumor mill has gotten out of
Another reminderno gossip! Dont listen to, repeat,
or participate in gossip of any form. This is the quickest way to
destroy trust. This also applies to you or any of your co-workers
sharing opinions about people with whom you work. Everyone deserves
the opportunity to make a good first impression so I refuse to
listen to comments about others and vice versa.
It is also a good policy never to make promises
you cant keep.
Our profession is all about helping others be
better at what they do. This is not an individual but a team
process and by remembering that you will be much more effective. I
may not be able to make people love me but I can sure do a lot to
earn their respect.