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Robots Can’t Engage Your Employees

By Jill George, Ph.D.

Jill George, Ph.D

Robots build vehicles.They pick fruit, saw, cut, and paint. Robots pull, pick, pack, and deliver product in the warehouse. You name the complex task and robots can perform it, even surgery. Robotics is key to most manufacturing operations and has been for 50 years. On the short list of what robots can’t do is coach and engage employees to increase performance and grow your business. You have to rely on the quality of your frontline, middle, and senior managers for that. Your leaders in every level and function need to create the environment that attracts, engages, retains, and leverages the asset that influences every single material, machine, process, and customer you have in your operation: your talent. You can’t be competitive without it. So, your leaders better be of the highest quality if your strategy is riding on them.

Effective coaching, engagement, and environment building are complex and require the right mix of disposition (your personality makeup, motivation, and fit with the work environment) and competencies (behaviors required for success on the job). Without the right mix of disposition and competencies aligned to your business strategy, you are likely not going to have the quality of leadership you need. With the onset of automation, changes in customer demands, tighter supply chains, expansion needs, and new global markets, how does this complexity impact the quality of your existing and future leadership? Do you have the quality of leaders you need, and at all levels?

In DDI’s Plant Leadership Series, which presents findings from the MPI Manufacturing Study (2014), disposition and competencies are the largest cause of terminations—a dire consequence of poor leadership quality (55 percent and 35 percent respectively). It is not technical and professional knowhow as you might expect (only five percent), yet technical knowledge is weighted almost equally to disposition and competencies in the hiring process.

Undervaluing Disposition

We call this the “technical trap” because this hiring/firing disconnect results in lower leadership quality and drains the bottom line. Hiring managers often over rely on technical skills or do not have the right success profile to align with their strategy. As reported in the same study, higher-quality leaders are more efficient (2.5 more inventory turns), have 50 percent less employee turnover, and are more productive (higher sales per employee) than lower-quality leaders.

Maybe one day we will have robotic leaders. Until then, you need to hire, develop, and promote the highest-quality leaders who are “hard wired” to drive your operation amidst the relentless onset of complexity. Can you afford not to have better leadership hiring and promotion decisions to improve productivity, efficiency, and employee engagement long term?

View all five of the Plant Leadership Series Infographics.

Jill George, Ph.D., is DDI's Manufacturing Practice Leader.

Posted: 26 Jun, 2015,
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