A friend recently told me about his (manufacturing) workplace where most of the equipment is broken, production lousy and new employees last “sometimes four hours, sometimes a week” but rarely longer than that. He reported that the business owner had recently woken up and hired an independent consultant to take a look and make recommendations for the business. I don’t know if this company has any HR personnel, but many small to medium companies do not have dedicated HR personnel, save and except for payroll, and may have a general manager or owner who is oblivious to what goes on the shop floor.
So what are the warning signs of a workplace that needs attention?
1. Voluntary turnover rates and patterns
Average turnover rates in 2012-13 were approximately 7.3% according to the Conference Board of Canada, with the retail sector suffering the highest rate at 20.3%. Employers should not only pay attention to the voluntary turnover rate in the workplace (compared with similar employers in the industry), but also any patterns to such turnover. Even with an average turnover rate, if new hires consistently abandon their jobs at the first lunch hour, it is a pretty good sign of a terrible orientation, training system or working conditions.
Are absenteeism rates higher than average? Are employees frequently absent without reason, or using every minute of sick time they are entitled to? This could be a sign of employees feeling like the employer is taking advantage of them and owes them something or of working conditions which are creating high stress levels.
If productivity is low, it may not be a result of lazy employees, it may be an inefficient management of resources, poor equipment or badly maintained equipment. It could also be a direct result of low morale.
4. Employee complaints
Do you get any? Not getting any, or getting few, may be more a sign of a bad workplace rather than a good one. If employees feel it is hopeless to raise issues, because no one listens or does anything about it anyway, or if they are actively discouraged from or disciplined for complaining by supervisors, complaint rates will be slim to none. Employees discouraged from speaking up are more likely to keep quiet even when unsafe working conditions arise, risking accidents and injuries. An employer with complaints satisfactorily resolved is likely a far better workplace than one with no complaints.
Do you have written policies? Employers with no written policies, or worse, no policies, leave employees and supervisors in the dark, create inconsistencies and favouritism (or at minimum the optics of it) and are a clear sign of a business’ human resources being undervalued.
I doubt anyone reading this blog is working for an organization like those described above and I am likely preaching to the converted, but if any of the above symptoms plague your organization, it may be time to review workplace policies and procedures, or to call in an independent third party consultant to take a fresh look at where things are going wrong. And you must be prepared to act on the recommendations.
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