Should managers/leaders invest time in communicating one-on-one regularly with hourly staff as well as direct reports? Let’s have a discussion.
The past few articles I’ve written have suggested investing this time will build trust, increase productivity, decrease employee turnover, increase employee morale, cut costs, and increase profits.
This is a big culture shift for some companies and managers whose time may already be allocated to other seemingly more important daily tasks. This case study shows these results follow those that take time to implement a healthy feedback loop.
A Case Study
Allow me to prove this WORKS with a Case Study from, a plant manager like many of you, Jon Walsh.
I ask Jon, “What systems are you guys using to build trust and create a healthy feedback loop?”
He confidently replied, “I meet every Monday with one crew for Breakfast Club. It’s their meeting. I prepare nothing. I am there to answer their questions.”
I was immediately intrigued by the relaxed atmosphere and change of environment Jon is creating for his employees on a weekly basis. I wondered whether this method helps him achieve results. I specifically wondered if the employees utilize this time to share feedback and key insights? If so, have these insights saved his company money?
Jon replied, “They often ask challenging questions, about topics or concerns you would not think may concern or interest hourly employees. They are always interested in our performance metrics & the outlook for the business. They contribute ideas that have lead to the root causes of problems the team has been unable to identify, created at least $500k in cost savings, helped us manage Covid better, improved our training by communicating what activities we are doing that are not helping them learn or improve, helped us be more efficient on our maintenance outages, provided insight for capital project needs, etc.. It’s been a very beneficial meeting for me to hold. We provide breakfast & lunch as well, as we’ve extended the Breakfast Club to roll into a communication, safety, quality, & operations meeting afterwards.”
My reaction was a staggering, “WOW!!” Jon has established an ongoing, healthy feedback loop with both his direct reports and hourly employees. His strategy is so effective that he’s added a second meal time meeting!
Jon continued, “It’s not a secret that one on one communication works. It helps cultivate relationships, builds trust, tears down walls, & ultimately delivers results. These meetings have allowed me to get to know my co-workers better, while also providing them that same benefit. This allows us to have more candid & in depth conversations when the situation calls for it, while providing us a comfortability with each other to resolve issues & understand differing perspectives. We can disagree, without being disagreeable. Nothing but mutual respect & true accountability. I know their expectations of me & they know my expectations of them. If either of us do not meet those expectations, the other party is fully empowered & comfortable with bringing it to the attention of the other one. We are also a union facility, so this has served to keep harmony in the plant as well. I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Does Jon have a unique circumstance?
I know many of you may have some objections to implementing such strategies to increase communication. You may have quickly thought of your situation. If so, I’d love to hear about it. I considered you in my discussion with Jon.
This question was asked on your behalf. I asked, “Are there any circumstances that made this situation work for you? For example, do you have a small staff or more freedom to incorporate strategies without corporate demands/restrictions?”
Jon responded, “We are a small staff. Only 19 salaried employees. We do have corporate strategies, requirements, & protocols to follow, but nothing overly stringent. I feel the secret sauce that makes this work for us is everyone knows we have very intimate avenues of communication. No salary employee shrugs off the needs of their hourly direct reports because they know it will most likely be escalated. No, the staff doesn’t pay lip service to needs, questions, or problems brought up by an hourly employee. This communication chain serves to sustain accountability. No request is ignored, so issues are resolved quickly, which results in fewer & fewer issues. A couple hours every Monday is a small price to pay for this synergy.”
Will more One-On-One Communication work for you?
YES. It may require a culture shift. There may be some push back at first. You may not have the same flexibility Jon has and another method may be better suited for you. In all cases, the effort is worth it if you are able to produce the environment and culture that Jon has. This culture is one that keeps giving. I’m grateful to Jon Walsh for telling me his story and allowing me the privilege of sharing it with all of you.
If you need help getting started, I’ve created a free resource for you that requires little effort but will reap big results. You can download The One-To-One 15 minute Stand Up Framework for Lean Managers here.