Front-line supervisors - and not the human resources department - should lead people issues like screening, training and deployment, according to consultant Joseph C. Barto III.
``Human capital management'' is what Barto calls it, and he said the shop floor is where it happens.
``Your first-line supervisors are focused, and almost totally consumed, by the people issues,'' he said. HR managers are too far upstream. ``They're generally turning the crank. They're into administration. They're into hiring. They're into firing - those kinds of things not associated with the strategic plans for human capital,'' Barto said March 1 at the Plastics News Executive Forum in Litchfield Park.
Barto is president and chief executive officer of Training Modernization Group Inc. of Poquoson, Va. He shared the stage with Susan Braun, management systems director of the contract group at Bemis Manufacturing Co. of Sheboygan Falls, Wis.
Plastics processors closely watch resin costs, cycle times, machine maintenance and waste - and Braun and Barto encourage executives to spend as much time on employee-related issues. They acknowledge, however, that an injection molding press is easier to figure out than a person.
``The hard thing about dealing with people is that they're not all the same. They're motivated by different things,'' Barto said.
Both speakers said top executives have to be committed to personnel issues. ``The entire senior [management] team has to be involved,'' Braun said.
Barto advises executives to study their best employees.
``If you don't know the story of the best employee you hired in the last five years, you ought to find it out,'' he said. Then try to replicate conditions surrounding that person. ``It's senior leaders' business to create those systems to force those things to occur.''
Braun, a Bemis veteran who worked her way up from secretary, said every employee plays a role. Newly promoted employees have to be taught how to manage. For new hires, she said, it's up to every existing employee to convey the corporate culture.
In the case of Bemis, the injection molder no longer has front-line supervisors, Braun said. Bemis relies on shop-floor people to make decisions. One change the company did make was to beef up employee training in operational issues.
Barto said companies often make key mistakes in a new hire's first few days. For example, he said new employees at one company spend the first two full days watching safety videos. More common is having the person fill out forms for half a day.
Barto has a better idea: Create a ``world-class first day'' by having the boss meet him or her in the lobby. Start with a plant tour, then follow with lunch with the plant manager. Save the paperwork for day two.
Barto also recommends choreographing the first two or three weeks, giving the employee lots of feedback. For the first one or two months, he suggests coaching on specific skills, again with a lot of feedback. Once they understand the basic job, more-intensive training can begin.