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As the company grew, she hired managers and put them in positions to handle operations, accounting and sales. Although these managers had those titles, it looked to me like they had little communication from the top.
When I joined, the company was having problems fulfilling orders. The purchasing people worked primarily with East Asian suppliers with a long supply chain. They had a lot of problems lining up shipments and getting our retailers what they needed. They seemed to get little help from the top.
Our warehouse was also a mess. We had three different kinds of software, and our Warehouse Manager seemed unable or unwilling to make them talk to one another. When I worked in the warehouse, no one gave me any training: I was hired in the afternoon, and started the next morning. The supervisor asked me to tag along with another employee, who took me to the back where a number of employees were talking and listening to the radio. We did very little work.
I heard after I left the company that it went bankrupt. In thinking about the things they did wrong, and based on what I have learned since then, I'd fault management there for several failings in their organization, processes and resultant HR policies:
There was no clear reporting or management system. It appeared that each department worked in 'silos,' and the result was poor performance. Sales would send orders to the warehouse, but there was little communication back to sales, or to the customer, about when the order might be filled. Wrong orders were frequent, as many of us didn't know the products or the processes very well.
There was no training. The company hired and lost employees so quickly that none of the managers had the time or the inclination to support the new people. As a result, the motivation was relatively low.
There was little or no delegation. As the managers didn't trust their employees to get things done, we found a lot of times that managers would step in. The Sales Manager was back in the warehouse all the time, yelling at the Warehouse Manager about orders being filled. It was not a very pleasant atmosphere.
There was no communication about our general goals, and how we were going to get there. I would have appreciated, the first day, having a talk by a manager or even the CEO to understand who they were, and what was important about our jobs.
This experience proved an expensive education -- for the company, not for me. Some of the elements that led to the downfall of that supplier could cause problems at Water Tight.
What have you learned from your benchmarking visit and your literature review about how to improve on this human resource process?
In comparing Water Tight's current state of affairs, what I've learned from the course, and my previous work experience at a company that grew so quickly, I could see a number of worrying parallels which need to be corrected. Although not all the elements are related to HR, such as management processes, better HR practices could make a significant difference in the operations and growth of Water Tight. These recommendations are listed below:
At present, the HR manager is so occupied with hiring people that she has little opportunity to do proper screening. With 1 HR manager and an assistant, she is hiring nearly one employee every working day. This is a high load for a recruiter, much less an HR manager.
There are several options. In the short-term, she may want to supplement her hiring expertise by bringing in either a junior HR person with a recruiting background, or promoting someone from within in order to help her with the workload.
There is a need for training in three key areas: the CEO, the management level, and the workers. In the case of the CEO, the HR manager may want to recommend a course for managers of fast-growing businesses. These courses are generally offered by MBA schools. Harvard has an executive education program dedicated to managers of such businesses. These courses tend to be relatively short, and can be taken without sacrificing his management control for a long period of time (HBS, 2007) (Keough, 1992)
The front-line supervisors and the management level need training in two things: how to interact as a team (amongst themselves and with their CEO), and how to hire, motivate and promote their people. The HR manager may wish to recommend a 'facilitator,' who can come to the company and lead the management team through a series of sessions which improves its ability to interrelate and improve their management skills. Since many of the managers grew up with the business, they are as much in need as the CEO of management training and process development.
Water Tight needs to develop its own in-house training for new and existing employees. Since the company will no longer be able to rely solely on hiring experienced workers from the competition, it now needs to branch out and look for employees who have the ability, but not the experience, to work at Water Tight. By developing an industry-leading training program, the company can both find and retain better employees (Sims, 1990).
It is time for the management team to think about hiring from within in order to fill key supervisor and management positions. Such a plan would insure the longer-term viability of Water Tight, and assure hard-charging employees that there is a way up in the organization. When the organization was smaller, the CEO could rely on promoting friends or managers from competitors in his organization. Now that the company has become a dominant competitor, such practices need to be changed (Gutteridge, 1993). Career planning has been thought of in the past as something useful only at very large companies. While the HR manager may not want to put in an overly-complex system, she can nevertheless take some best practices from other firms.
How would you devise an excellent example of this human resource process for Water Tight?
What qualities would the system have (and not have)? Be thorough and provide specifics in making your recommendations.
Creep, crawl, walk, run." That is good advice for any rapidly-growing company that would like to 'do it all' at the same time. The biggest short-term problem is recruiting and retention. This should be tackled first by supplementing the HR manager and giving her department the opportunity to adequately recruit and find the right employees. It would also free the HR manager to take on some of the additional tasks which are outlined below.
The HR manager may also wish to bring in an HR consultant for a three-month period of time. This person should be fairly senior, and should help her with the management team and the CEO, in order to make recommendations on future needed changes.
The retention problem needs to be fixed, but it can be done in stages. Employees will stay if:
They are trained before and during the time that they work, so they know what is expected of them. Thus, putting in an initiation training period would help to reduce errors. The HR manager should get the agreement of each manager to devote some period of time each week for a more formal training process.
They have a chance to get ahead in the organization. The HR manager should first do a 360-degree evaluation of employees and managers, which will allow her to assess the current state of motivation and thoughts about career advancement. Based on the findings, she should then put in place a formal evaluation, which each manager is expected to do of every employee. The system should start out fairly simple, but the HR manager can spend some time with the management team to discuss their findings and help them in giving feedback.
They are apprised of the goals of the organization. The CEO is clearly experienced and an asset to the whole workforce. He should spend some time with some of the individual employees and as a group to insure that they hear the corporate message from the leader. This can be done on a more formal basis, such as monthly company meetings, and on an informal basis, such as having lunch with the employees. In addition, the CEO can set up regular meetings with his management team to ensure that problems are brought up and dealt with, and the organization is 'on the same page.'
Recruiting may be the least of the company's problems, if the other things are done well. The company should decide what a good recruit looks like -- what skills are needed, and which is the company willing to supplement through training? The HR manager may want to consider a more formal interviewing process and some skills assessment tests in order to insure that the recruits would be a good fit with the organization.
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