A couple years back the opportunity came up to provide HR consulting to one of the largest food retailers in the Southeastern U.S. The company had been sued and agreed to make work environment corrections. We evaluated the company from a number of streams in order to isolate issues and resolve them. There existed an enormous divide between management and the floor working staff.
The company thought it was a good idea to implement a “team buddy’ concept whereby newly hired staff would be teamed up with a “buddy” for guidance and help during the work shifts. The idea was close to being a “mentor” but missed the mark almost entirely. Another idea behind this concept was to free up management for other necessary duties. The team “buddy” was a co-worker who had been on the job longer than the new hire. The “buddy” could do just about anything that a shift or dept. manager could do except terminate. At the onset this appeared problematic and my hunch proved correct. Workers expect to take their directions from a manager and not a co-worker.
It was not unusual to see a fifty-year-old front-end clerk having a nineteen-year-old “buddy”. Some new hires stopped listening to anything the “buddy” told them. Eventually resentment set in and some workers felt mistreated and eventually left the company. It is common knowledge in HR that workers don’t quit their job, they quit their boss. The irony here is that workers quit their co-workers.
Two issues were created in this scenario. First, the team “buddy” was given too much authority and the managers needed to make sure that new hires could seek guidance from them (managers) should a conflict arise. Secondly, the team “buddy” program lasted longer than it should. New hires usually understand that in any new job there is a learning curve. Although the “buddy” system was meant to provide guidance it actually turned into an unwanted level of micro-management.
To make matters worse, when a worker complained about their “buddy” to management, the management usually sided with the buddy, leaving the worker unappreciated and isolated.
What can you do as an employer in this type of scenario? Your most valuable asset will never be your service or product, but your workers. As a footnote, before writing this article, we revisited the food retailer and spoke to many managers who told us that, despite our suggestions toward change to Executives at the company, nothing was done. It has been a couple of years and managers are now faced with workers who won’t even follow simple instructions because managers aren’t being taken seriously. There now exists a real disconnect between management and workers.
Should the company engage mass firings for insubordinates?
Should the company revisit their ‘team buddy” system?
As an employer, you can learn from the mistakes of others and strategically market your workers through engagement and retention. Happy and satisfied workers are invaluable to any organization.
Contact HR Risk Advisors for a FREE consultation. Call us today at (954) 552 5162.