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Motivating for Results
Scores of Doughnuts
Chuck Coonradt – CEO, The Game of Work
One would think that it takes more than doughnuts and submarine sandwiches to motivate employees, but in this “reefer plant” that reward tactic has worked for over 16 years. And we’re not talking about the munchies. Reefer plant is industry jargon for refrigeration plant. A utility trailer manufacturing company builds refrigerated semi truck trailers and its premier plant and its 635 employees have been practicing an interesting incentive program since 1987 that involves food, paid time off, highly visible scoreboards and unmatched team spirit.
Plant Manager Steve S. credits his productivity-boosting idea to a book called The Game of Work. The book discusses the basic premise that most professional athletes love their jobs and that the same principles that motivate people to play sports should also apply to work.
The Five Principles
- Clearly defined goals
- Frequent feedback
- Personal choice
- Never changing the rules in the middle of the game
And, of course, this company has applied the principles with phenomenal results. Before any incentive program, the refrigeration trailer plant saw an average labor savings of 6.4% -- pretty good. But after Steve began implementing concepts he learned from the book, the plant’s labor savings average shot up and stayed up at 15.5%.
Translate percentages into hourly dollars per employee over 16 years, and that’s a lot of operating dough. And doughnuts! Of course more manufacturing hours mean more productivity. It makes sense that the plant, one of five company manufacturing plants in the country, outperforms the other four plants year after year after year; in fact, this utility trailer plant is the largest manufacturer in the world of refrigerated semi trailers, producing the majority of all refrigerated semi trailers in the western hemisphere.
So how does the incentive plan work?
The program Steve S. has adapted for his utility trailer manufacturing plant is based on actual manufacture hours worked. The plant is broken down into department teams. Each team member knows his/her hourly goals. Time cards are turned in after each shift and hours are logged into the computerized scorekeeping system. The scores are posted daily.
Several giant scoreboards are located throughout the plant so that everybody can see the score. If a team is lagging in manufacture hours, they know instantly to step up productivity or they could lose the reward for the whole plant.
If the plant completes 95% of its weekly manufacturing goal, then the whole plant gets breakfast (doughnuts, cinnamon rolls etc.) the following Tuesday. If the plant completes 98% of its weekly manufacturing goal, then the whole plant gets lunch (subs, burgers etc). And if the plant completes 100% of its weekly manufacturing goal, then the whole plant takes a paid day off. At this manufacturing plant, it’s all for one and one for all. The whole plant performs or nobody wins. That means every time a goal is met, Steve S. has to reward 635 people. That’s a lot of sandwiches!
It’s a motivator that has worked so well for so long that the other four utility refrigerated trailer plants around the country are finally catching on – and the company’s other non-refrigerator trailer plants are expected to follow.
Oh, and we tried to ask one of the employees how they liked the incentive program, but no one could answer – their mouths were full.
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