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Production Jobs…More than the sterotypes suggest.

January 29, 2014 Leave a comment

I have been working in production now for six years and have come across a similar reaction when describing my job to friends and family. That well it won’t be forever look and the consoling words that come from the desk jockeys who have never operated an industrial machine in their lives can be infuriating.
Indeed the fairytale of WWII factory workers building the equipment to safe the lives of American soldiers overseas has long since devolved away to an all time low, in my almost humble opinion. Low Education, Loves physical labor, bottom of the barrel…such is the stereotype of the American factory worker.

I started looking around the web for some comforting news about the image of factory workers. My google search first turned up a yahoo answers page. The question (What is the stereotype of a factory worker?) was answered by three people:
1.PepperEva said, “They had some tough luck. Maybe they made bad choices, maybe things happened that they couldn’t control, maybe they like working a factory. Maybe they want to run one some day. I generally just think, huh, a job. I doubt I’ll get a steady job doing what I love. I’ll probably take the work I can get and do what I love in my free time.”
2.Apple Jacks said, “uneducated.”
3.Vanessa said, “Poor.”

…not a very reassuring find for the image of the factory worker.

The Actuality

As I was bouncing around safety blogs and came across an article in http://www.impomag.com that gave some stark facts that describe the reality of factory workers. The article was written by Nancy Syverson, Managing Editor. It is entitled, “Who Works in Your Plant? A Profile of Today’s American Factory Worker.”

Today’s factory workers are educated and well paid

Syverson’s article had some facts:

Myth: Factory workers are low paid.
•Fact: According to recent reports, the average manufacturing wage is $54,000 per year, 18% higher than the average U.S. wage.

Myth: Factory workers are high-school dropouts.
•Fact: Some 78% of the manufacturing workforce has a high-school or greater education.

Myth: Factory jobs require vocational education, which attracts students who are less qualified in other areas.
•Fact: According to NAM, today’s manufacturers seek a range of skills that include hands-on abilities as well as math, science and computer use.

Myth: You have to be a union member to work in a factory.
•Fact: Unions represents only about 20% of all factory workers, down from 25% five years ago. Currently 22 right-to-work states give factory workers the choice of belonging to a union or not.

Myth: The burden of benefit costs have been shifted to the employee in manufacturing as in other industries.
•Fact: More than 80% of manufacturers still pay the bulk of employees’ medical benefits, including dental.

Myth: Factory work requires physical labor and can be dangerous.
•Fact: Certain factory work will always require physical labor, but automation and ergonomic awareness have reduced that type of work, resulting in a 40% decrease in workplace injuries over the past decade.

Using current demographic data, a new picture of the modern factory worker emerges. Tough, hardworking and determined, America’s factory workers are faced with challenges that often require more smarts than strength.

Some further digging found an article published in http://www.breakingout.net by Kevin Wells. His article Why It’s Important to Cut Loose contrasts working in production and working in a cubical. “The term “factory workers” doesn’t have to be taken literally,” Wells says, “Most people in the Western world nowadays are actually office workers, but – same difference. In the West, office work is the new factory work. When I worked in offices the people I encountered were pretty much the same as the old factory worker stereotype. It makes not a jot of difference whether you are blue collar or white collar.”

My Experience

I work with Pepperidge Farm in Bloomfield Connecticut, where we make an enormous amount of Bread and Stuffing.  I can count a half-dozen other employees I personally deal with daily on the production floor that have at least a Bacheller’s degree. Pepperidge Farm pays better than most jobs in the area and we all know that there are lists of people waiting to get a shot working here. The factory uses more machines than manual labor, which creates the rise of computer savvy machine operators. These operators are highly skilled problem solvers who invest themselves in the million-dollar machines they operate.

Yes the American factory worker is in dire need of a PR campaign. This down-and-out reputation does not reflect the dedication, education and technical skill that is mandatory in today’s workforce.

Model Leadership Strategies

November 7, 2011 Leave a comment

In his book, Touch Points, Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbells Soup, stresses the importance of creating your own leadership models.  I have been studying up on my own leadership model and have reached a conclusion:

Empower, Uplift, and Share the Wealth

In my own leadership experience, I have discovered that these three actions above all will motivate all involved to a synergistic level.  People do not work merely for money, even though they might say they do.  If money was the only driving principle there would be a mass exodus from the public sector to entrepreneurship and business schools would be bursting at the seams with aspiring MBAs.  No, my experience is rather that people work for the pride of their work.  I absolutely know that public employees work for that very reason.  I was in management with the Driver License Division in Utah for long enough to know that.

Pepperidge Farm has also taught me the same thing.  Recently I was walking down a hall and bumped into a Line Lead.  “No one signs the extra work list anymore,” he said with some frustration.  “We need people to stay after, and no one is signing up.”  Clearly, we work for the pride of our jobs.  We work for the recognition of our coworkers and families.  We need the money, but believe it or not money is not the driving force behind why we go to work.

I have listed some popular leadership models below.  It may be a good idea to see where you think you fit into this list as a leader.  As for myself I probably align myself with the Quiet Leadership approach or the Level 5 Leadership model.  How is your workplace governed?

Popular Leadership Models

Transactional Leadership:  Rules..eh, RuleBest used in mature establishments, such as Pepperidge Farm.  Rewards are based on achievement, and punishment is dished out for breaking the rules.  There is a clear chain of command.  The clear advantage is organization, the disadvantage is that organizations that improperly use this organization can focus more on punishments than rewards…rules trump all.

Transformational Leadership:  Energy and Vision.  For this leadership model there must be one charasmatic leader.  People are motivated by a ‘higher cause.’  They are motivated by the idea that they can accomplish anything.  Inspiration comes through words and action, not through rules.

Participative Leadership:  Democracy…pure and simple.  All levels of the company have a say in policy, procedure, etc..  The idea is that with greater participation comes greater comradery.

Situational Leadership:  Mold to the Occasion.  Leadership models adapt with the situation governing them.

Charismatic Leadership:  Transformational Leadership….on steriods!  Leadership hinges on a charismatic leader who motivates with words and reason.  Ironically, having one overwhelmingly charismatic leader can smother creativity and imagination in the work force.  Things improve only on the scale the leader sets.

Quiet Leadership:  In this model, the leader motivates from behind the scenes.  Credit is not taken by the leadership, rather it is attributed to the workforce.  Ego and aggression are not worshipped as in some other leadership models because they are not needed.  Giving the group credit is meant to raise the standard of excellence without leaving a team member behind.  Ironically, Quiet Leadership is usually facilitated by management no less driven than the charismatic leader.

Servant Leadership:  My Responsibility.  In this model, the leader is made to feel they have complete responsibility for the outcome of the line.  The good of the line outweighs the good of the leader.  The leader tends to be self-sacrificial.  success belongs to the team, failure belongs to the leader.

Level 5 Leadership:  Quiet/Servant Leadership.  This is a mash-up of Quiet and Servant Leadership models.  The Company image is more important than the leaders, who merely facilitate the company’s vision.  Leaders in this model are not intimidated to hire those who have more experience or education.  They are humble, but driven.