I have an employee that is very intelligent, and only been in the cabinetmaking end for a few years. He is very capable and can do very intricate work. However, due to his lack of experience, he may produce a very difficult piece and totally ignore the basics, such as being out of square to the point of requiring a rebuild. There always seems to be something - a lost piece, etc. The last one is about a 6 hour screw-up for carpentry 101 mistakes. Should I make him re-do the piece on his own time to push him to pay more attention, or should I eat the cost, again? Right now, I need his hands in the shop. I can't afford, with the work load, to be out of the help he is, despite the screw-ups, but can't afford the screw-ups. There is great potential in him, but I inherited him and his $2.50/hour over pay when I took the job managing. I guess I know what to do, but would like some input. Any great wisdom out there?
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor M:
I think you need to sit him down and explain to him what he is doing wrong, and how expensive it is for you to have to pay twice or more for mistakes. I have found that many times employees donít realize how much their mistakes cost unless it is explained. If he doesnít understand the basics, then he needs training of them. Even if he can do advanced tasks, the lack of basics will continue to hurt his performance and your pocket.
As far as making him redo on his own time, I donít know if you can make him do it, at least without resentment on his part, unless he feels badly about his mistakes. I have found that when a guy screws up on something, if he feels real bad about it, he will really try and correct it, and I am willing to eat the mistake easier than if he doesnít seem to care. No matter what happens, he needs proper training on the basics, and if he canít learn that, then he probably wonít make it in this business.
At any rate, hope you can get on top of this; good employees are becoming so rare in our industry. The difficult part is trying to bring him up to speed without impairing your relationship (such as resentment) due to pointing out your costs on his mistakes. If he is as intelligent as you say, this should not be a problem. If this continues, your loyalty should be to the success of your company, not continuing to shoulder costly mistakes from carelessness or sloppy work habits.
I suspect he is well aware of the basics but his full attention is on the complex details. As such, the basics get overlooked. A good technician will overcome this with experience. Once the basics become habit, they automatically get handled.
Just hired a young guy I know, 23 years old, college grad and intelligent, for cleanup and cutting some basic drawer parts (to length with cutoff saw with stop) and machining in an automatic dovetailer. He gave up on the parts, said he didn't understand the end product. I don't mean gave up, just said he was not cutting them. I explained the end product (drawers) and included an exploded stick figure drawing of the parts. Moved off that onto cleanup. Didn't blow off any machines or move or sweep under anything. Used one hand to use broom, as the other was occupied with continually smoking. No pressure on the broom, just skipping over the top of the sawdust. When I requested he use both hands, he said he quit, as there were things people shouldn't have to do. He considered this crap work.
I think I may run an ad - alcohol and substance abuse okay. Must not have transportation. Law enforcement issues a plus. I'll probably get a flood of applicants. At least I won't get any surprises.
How do you determine that he is overpaid by $2.50 per hour? If you have determined the wage scale, then it is your job to make an adjustment and explain this to the employee. This is not a pleasant task, but he should be able to understand why he is costing money by re-work, and accept the pay cut if he wants to keep his job and learn to do better. A good manager must find a way to deal with this situation.
The responsibility for the quality and accuracy of the product that leaves the shop rests squarely on the shoulders of those that are in the position of management, supervision and/or ownership. If things are not up to your standards, it is your job to establish those standards and provide enough guidance and oversight to maintain them. There will always be mistakes, but a pattern of problems indicates a weakness in the system.
I am not trying to be harsh, but this employee sounds like he has potential that is being stymied by a lack of proper supervision and training.
From the original questioner:
Thanks for the responses. First of all, no free work was done or asked to be done. I wanted to see what you thought, because the owners had suggested it to me. Anyway, I have just recently been hired by this company to help put things in order, thus the comment of inheriting him. All I had to go on at first was what I was told he was capable of doing. Since this incident took place, I have learned much about this employeeís capabilities and lack thereof. So many of your comments are right in line with my beliefs. As far as this individual situation, I had him keep track of the time it took to redo the piece, yes, with supervision. Then we spoke of the time it took and the cost to the company so he could understand the need to pay attention to details. I also reemphasized to him and each of the employees that I am always available for questions of any kind, no matter how trivial they may seem.
Ultimately, having one more week on the job, I have learned much more about his and othersí abilities. Things are already flowing much smoother, the more I learn of them, and the more they realize they can rely on me for instruction, and as they see that I really do know what I'm doing in the shop.