Do your employees frustrate you because they lack the initiative to achieve stated goals, miss deadlines or just can’t seem to keep to an accurate production schedule? Do they sometimes just not follow up with some basic tasks and things get missed? Maybe they have been making mistakes and their only answer is a lame shrug of the shoulders. I’m sure you can name a problem or two in this category. There definitely is a problem.

Some days you just want to pull your hair out. Ouch!

To get your crew into a more efficient mindset that delivers on accountability, here are some tips to start some actionable change today:

Absolute Expectations

To get everyone on the same page in your shop, make sure you have a great communication skill set. Defining crystal clear expectations on all tasks will help push everyone to a better place. You want to eliminate any ambiguity, especially with your work orders.

If anyone has ever come up front and asked, “Hey what’s this mean?”; it means someone isn’t doing a good job of communicating the expectations regarding the work order. Everyone should know when that job is to leave the building, and work backwards to complete it on time.

You should have conversations constantly with your crew to understand the roadblocks they are facing every day. Your job as a leader in your shop is to eliminate these roadblocks as best you can. Strategize with your team and develop a plan together. Especially if there are time sensitive deadlines associated with the work.

Having constant communication regarding challenges is one of the best way to endear the expectations that are needed to be achieved regarding any work. For example, let’s say that a 1,000 piece three location order is coming in, and it has to ship next Friday. If your idea of communication is just thinking “Oh, they’ll get it done.”, you may be in for a surprise.

Taking the time to chat with your production team regarding the job, what benchmarks are needed to hit when, and working out the plan on how to achieve the goal, is one of the best methods of ensuring success. You are all in this together. It is the teamwork approach to discussing expectations that is going to move mountains and keep you on track. Everyone is happier because they were included in the solution.

Absolute Capacity
Having a baseline of capacity is crucial to establishing a culture of accountability that you seek. Can this person do the task assigned correctly? Do they have the skill, training or talent needed? Do they have the correct tools, equipment, and are they properly maintained? Is there adequate time to complete the job as defined? Do they even like or want the job they are doing for you? Are there any challenges in their way that could affect the outcome whatsoever?

All of these are important points to review when defining a goal. Otherwise, you are setting the person up for failure if there are any challenges with the statements I outlined above.

You should also establish your shop’s production capacity for each department. How many orders can be realistically entered in a day? How many designs can be created? How many files digitized, or screens burned? How many shirts printed or embroidered? You just want to find the average and set the standard. The simplest way is to just look back at past production logs and tally them up. What are you doing every day?

Absolute Measurement
Do you measure and benchmark things in your shop? W. Edwards Deming has a great quote that goes, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” So for your staff accountability challenge, are you measuring their performance?

Taking the time to measure gives you the data needed to make adjustments and understand the relationships between actions in your business. Think of it like a speedometer in your car. Without the gauge, how fast are you really going?

Measuring things that matter to your shop helps you define what are called the Key Performance Indicators, or KPI’s. KPI’s can tell you if you are on the right track or not, and if you need to make any adjustments.

This could be in your quality, where you measure the amount of misprints or defects per month, or by press. This could be in your production speed, where you measure each press and define their average print speed by impressions per hour. This could be in the cost per print for consumables, labor or energy. What are the metrics that are important to your shop? Are you defining, measuring and working on making them better?

Absolute Feedback
Your team needs to know where they stand. Ambushing a staff member with a long list of things they haven’t achieved on some metrics they didn’t even know about is a very unprofessional way to run a business.

A better method is to continually discuss employee performance with clear, open feedback that is based on facts, not opinions. Build your shop KPI’s for your key staff members. Discuss with them the things that matter, and together, define the target they need to reach.

If you define absolute expectations, current capacity and use your measurements as part of your feedback loop with your staff, the conversations you can have will be easy to have and rewarding. What you want is everyone on the same page, going in the same direction.

These conversations are gold if you are serious about improvement. You absolutely need to make time for them, at least twice a month. Plus, it is critical that you get to hear the feedback coming your way from your staff. What is a problem for them? How can you help?

Absolute Consequences
Why are you doing all of this? It is to create actionable accountability. This means as you are building and defining your shop culture you need to be raising the bar with your staff regarding their performance.

If you have been pushing the first four definitions above, Expectations, Capacity, Measurement & Feedback…then the Consequences mode can be easier to manage.

This is where a lot of shops fail at accountability. Owners are afraid to let go a non-performing staff member because they like them. Managers are afraid of making a change because no one is trained to do the job yet. The employees do what they want because the tiger had no teeth. Same old, same old.

However, if you are on the Absolute Consequences track, making actionable change can be easier as you have some points to rely on. The accountability section is divided into three parts: Repeat, Reward or Release.

Repeat mode is the idea that this is an ongoing goal that the person or group is working to achieve. For example, if you want your automatic press crews to operate at an average of 400 impressions per hour and to keep their defect rate under 1% of all impressions printed, you would define that as their goal. Working with them, you can outline some steps to achieve the success both in terms of speed and quality. Your production logs will provide the data, and you can keep daily track of the results. You can post the weekly average data, and help champion the expectations by continually discussing it with the crew.

Rewards are obvious. You can just give a simple pat on the back or public praise. (Remember, publically praise, privately condemn) For long term results, this could lead to a monetary raise or bonus. Just remember, without the benchmarking and KPI’s, how will you know if there is any improvement? This is where obtaining the data, and pushing the expectations with a set goal really pays off.

Finally, there is Release mode. Here’s where most shop owners or managers fail. Everything points to a decision, but it’s a hard conversation to make so they just avoid it. Your gut tells you that something must be done, but you can’t do it. Will anything ever change then?

You really have two choices to make. Release the employee from their current role and move them to another job in the company, or terminate their employment. Your goal should be to only keep the best performing workers possible. If you have honestly done everything you can to help the employee succeed in terms of expectations, capacity, measurement and feedback, you need to pull the trigger. Frankly, if you have been continually discussing with the employee regarding their shortcomings and need for improvement, they already know what’s coming.

At the end of the day, it your company’s leadership that must wrangle this topic and tackle it to the ground. Lack of employee accountability squarely lies with ownership and management.

Using these steps can help get you to where you want to go.

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