5 Ways to Maintain Quality During the Labor Shortage

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Is your company or department severely understaffed? Are you struggling with more open positions than staffed ones? Can you even recall the last time you did just one job? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should know you’re not alone. We are facing one of the most challenging times when it comes to staffing. Demand is high in a lot of industries and yet most companies do not have the personnel to achieve production goals. In this post, I will share with you the ideas and concepts that I, and the leaders around me have used over the past year to stay focused on maintaining quality.

Slow It Down

This is so very simple but in this world of backorders and trying to stay on top of multiple jobs, quality can easily take a backseat to getting the product out. It is always best to go slower and produce a better product. An associate once told me “If you didn’t have time to do it right the first go round, how will you have time to do it again?” I love this quote. Look, we’re all behind on orders and we want to get the customer the product they are asking for. However, rushing to get the items out the door will have a negative effect down the road and you may permanently lose customers.

Stick To Your Values

Your values and objectives are what got you here. That hasn’t changed. At the company I work for we have a clear set of objectives that we can always lean on. They are: Safety, Quality, Productivity, Customer Service and Reduction of Waste. These values lie deep beneath every decision that is made. Notice the order? That is intentional. Thinking through each one of these will make even the most chaotic of situations a little easier to figure out. These values or objectives are essential in success during uncertain times.

Sacrifice Greatly

Open interviews, starting pay raises and sign on bonuses are everywhere these days. We’re all trying to get people in the door. Unfortunately, most places aren’t seeing the fruits of the hiring department’s labor. You’re already covering two or more positions trying to fill the gaps but, you notice an associate who’s quality is not up to par. Extra time and explanation has been given to the associate but they still cannot seem to hit the target. Even with no one coming in for interviews, that tough decision still needs to be made. You have to hold the line even if it means putting a little more stress on your already over-stressed department. Again, quality over productivity.

Start From the Beginning

Ok so there are some new hires walking through the door. Now, you’re tasked with training them to be proficient at their job. How, as an already so busy leader, do you train them quickly and correctly? Many of us have to rely on other associates in the area and we can’t be with the new hire for the whole shift. So, when you do get time with the new hire, you must go over the importance of quality over productivity. Hammer that in, and since you are probably in process, SHOW them that you value high quality. If you can get them to be on board with the objectives, they are less likely to develop bad habits to increase production speed. This will pay in dividends because if done correctly, that new hire will go on to train other new hires with the correct mindset.

Build Your Sandcastle

This one is more of a proactive measure that is meant for these exact times. I sat down with one of my leaders earlier this week to discuss his ideas on the topic of maintaining quality. He explained to me what the sandcastle meant to him. Simply put, your sandcastle is all of the little things you do, that keep the operation going. If you’ve maintained your sandcastle, you can leave those items alone and it will take time for them to erode. So what are the little things? Well, they can be maintaining machines or keeping up with process changes or even developing built in quality items that throw red flags when things are off. Having these things done will keep you locked on to your true target of reducing defects.

In Summary

To wrap this up, I just want to say that I know its hard. I’m not just a person throwing out all of these hypotheticals. I am on the floor, in process and these are the things I’m seeing. I truly believe that if you keep these 5 things in mind you will increase and maintain superior quality. The proof is in the pudding. The division I work in has actually seen a $600,000+ improvement in warranty dollars spent. Lastly, I want to say how important it is to show appreciation to your associates that have stayed. They are experiencing the same thing you are. We’re all over worked and if you do right by them, they will do right by you and the company.

Do you already use these tactics? Is there one you need to focus on more?

Thanks for reading!! Don’t forget to check out my Monthly Reading List. Also, connect with me on LinkedIn.

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