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How to improve Operator Motivation

Steve Prevette

Deming Disciple
Staff member
Super Moderator
A key is - if you are going to ask the bear to dance, then dance. If you are going to ask employees to improve, to take more responsibility for what they make, then if they point out an issue, don't blow it off.

My workplace is going through a significant "Safety Conscious Work Environment" effort. Google SCWE and you will find lots of stuff. But even the other day, I discover a ladder that has been left leaning against a cubicle wall after a job has ended the previous day. This is contrary to most safety rules, which require you to properly store a ladder when done with it. It's good for both the ladder and the employees. However, upon pointing out the ladder to the company safety director (who's office is very close to mine) and then our official safety engineer for the building, I got first sent on a wild-goose chase, and then just told - we assume the workers are coming back, what's the issue. A complete refusal to even just say - thanks for pointing it out, we'll take care of it.

I did have a couple of good discussions with executives of the company (since I am helping the company prepare for a SCWE review), and although the ladder itself was not that big of a thing, if a corporate person like me has that much trouble getting a simple thing like a ladder acknowledged, let alone taken care of, what is a "normal" worker in a facility to do with a bigger (perhaps nuclear) safety issue?

So - be careful you haven't gotten yourself into a situation like this. If you expect the employees to take ownership and to point things out, they simply won't after a few experiences like this.

QA compliance

I also think the key here is to give the employee clear expectations and then assure they are given the tools to do their job correctly! Every day, ask them what they need from you to do their job and provide it... Just sayng :)
Re: How to improve operators motivation?

I started a team wall, we took pictures of all our line operators and every week supervisors and managers, would appoint a candidate to be in the honor wall, for a particular reasons. But the top spot was for the operators that detected any defect that could potentially lead to a customer complaint or simply a failure in the unit. HR would give us 2 10-15 dlls gift card for the winners. They liked it :)

I am actually writting a paper for my university in Mexico, about how personal problems and the careful selection of operators can influence the quality of our products. As soon as I am done, I will translate and share.

I can honestly say, that all those operators make my day happy. I used to be a quality engineer. They like to be acknowledged and they like to think and know how important is each of their jobs for the company.

Hey! The wall was a nice idea, did you finish your paper?? Would be grate to see it! You sed you are from Mexico right? Mee too! Excelente idea


A Sea of Statistics
Fertile subject, for sure; in a broad sense employee motivation is part, a key part of the larger concept and application...Toyota does an excellent job of this in the Toyota Production System....a short but telling excerpt below really summarizes this, making the employ, operator, etc., and their scope of work part of the larger picture making their input a key input to all important decisions, by ensuring they are part, an integral part of the process:

"The aim of the Toyota Production System is to ensure that all activity adds value to the product. It is irresponsible to allow non-value adding work to continue. This is disrespectful to the employee and compromises our competitive position. By ensuring that all work is value adding we build employment security into the production system..."
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