Russ Martin and his son Ray are the respective president and vice president of Great Lakes Custom Tool (www.glct). They walk through their large facility each day because it allows them to chat with employees about anything and everything going on in the shop. It sometimes lets them catch a glimpse of employees’ problems or needs in the moment. These relaxed, simple strolls also show they are reachable and approachable. Although this daily drill sometimes lasts an hour, the Martins say the time is well spent.
Might such routine walks help you better manage the time needed to support open communication in your shop?
Although largely beneficial, conventional open-door policies tend to reduce a manager’s daily output. It’s not necessarily the total time devoted to helpful, private discussions with employees that’s the issue. Sporadic, unscheduled meetings break up long stretches of focus and concentration needed for some projects.
Passing through your open door to take scheduled walks, instead of waiting for others to find you, gives you some control over how your time is spent supporting effective shop communication. It allows you to have a number of brief one-on-one chats in one block of time, likely reducing the number of random visits you’ll receive. It demonstrates your understanding that workplace communication is a two-way street. It gives you an opportunity to solicit suggestions for ways to improve shop efficiency or trim manufacturing waste. Also, it offers a chance to comment appreciatively on the contributions that individuals make to the company.
You may not be able to carve an hour out of each day for such walks, and that’s fine. Making these walks routine is arguably more important than how frequently you get to the floor. Expected visits won’t seem like little sneak attacks or give the impression that you’re only out there to check up on an employee’s productivity. Plus, consistent visits on the same day or at the same time give employees a chance to prepare questions rather than calling them to mind as they’re in the middle of their duties.
Such open communication is certainly important these days given global economic conditions. Employees have questions about the company and its position in the market, and it’s important to provide answers to the extent that you can. Not only will this boost morale, but it will instill confidence that you are doing all that you can to keep the company on the right track.
So, consider taking such “steps” if you’re looking to get a better handle on open-door communication, and be sure to continue the exercise even after the economy improves.
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