Increase productivity and improving motivation to achieve growth despite a labor shortage : the Bebcolab case

In 2015, manufacturing company Bedcolab found itself with its back against the wall. A year after a 50% cut to its workforce, due to a sharp drop in sales, strong growth resumed and the company’s manufacturing operationswere struggling to keep up with the pace of growth. Whereas most other companies in the same situation would have looked to recruit more staff in order to support production, Bedcolab’s  management asked themselves if their existing teams could absorb this additional workload. This question is even more relevant today, in the context of labor shortages and a mismatch between available talent and the needs of the labor market.

Indeed, it’s rare to find a company that, instead of increasing its capacity immediately, starts out by examining whether their initial assets are being used to their full potential, whether best business practices are consistently implemented, whether identifying opportunities for improvement is a day-to-day priority or if the flow of information is efficient.

These issues fall under the responsibility of first-line managers, but how many of these managers have actually undergone management training? How have they been supported and developed during their transition from technical experts to team leaders, now held accountable for team performance? Even with decades of experience, first-line managers often measure their own performance by their ability to resolve crises on a daily basis. Rather than being team coaches or leaders, they remain technical experts, despite their supervisory This has major repercussions for many companies: recurring problems, confusion regarding performance accountability, “blame culture” within the organization, investments failing to deliver the expected results, etc.

Bedcolab’s strategy and visionary approach in resolving its production issues has been to invest first in its human capital and then in its infrastructure. The company therefore chose to strengthen its management capabilities at the point of delivery before embarking upon a recruitment drive or before purchasing new machinery. The goal: to increase productivity and motivation. The results were conclusive. Five years after cutting its workforce by 50%, sales have risen by 135% and the company operates with 40 fewer employees than would have been necessary to deliver the same sales revenue 5 years ago. By investing in management at the point of delivery, Bedcolab has succeeded in increasing productivity by 40%, has raised its production capacity by 30% without any injection of capital, and has also reduced staff absenteeism by 40%.

Bedcolab’s management called upon Proaction International to obtain the fighting force necessary to accelerate the implementation of the management team’s vision: “I knew where I wanted to go, but the need to act was urgent and the Proaction International team had the expertise, the experience both in Québec and internationally, and the references in the manufacturing sector.” Three main change areas were prioritized:

1. IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF MANAGERS AND OF THE WORK ENVIRONMENT

Through a better understanding of their roles, first-line managers started moving away from their reactive mode and began to place more emphasis on monitoring performance, on planning and on team mobilization. By shifting their focus away from manual tasks and the resolution of recurring issues, Bedcolab’s supervisors have adopted a management approach aiming to steer their teams’ efforts, to recognize their work and to empower each employee towards communication and the resolution of day-to-day issues.

2. ONGOING USE OF PERFORMANCE INDICATORS

The ability to meet daily targets depends on one’s capacity to measure performance in real time. Yet, too many companies have insufficient knowledge of their production standards or are unable to justify a wide variation between technicians doing the same job. At Bedcolab, supervisors placed particular emphasis on determining production standards, on respecting best practices and on communicating the importance of always reaching targets. This focus gradually allowed the company to set ever more ambitious performance targets and therefore become more competitive.

3. INTRODUCTION OF A CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT TEAM

Introducing a continuous improvement team has become essential for any company’s competitiveness in our ever more complex, competitive environment. Companies aren’t just hounded by local players any more. Technological improvements and the proliferation of international trade deals are factors that influence competitiveness, yet over which companies have little control. At Bedcolab, the introduction of this team allowed the work initiated by Proaction International to be continued, and for management coaching methods to be applied, ensuring the necessary management maturity to achieve world-class performance.

 

The case of Bedcolab demonstrates the determining role of first-line managers on business productivity and mobilization. This is all too often neglected by management teams, despite the fact that it is a key factor to competitiveness. Before investing time and money in recruitment during a labor shortage, businesses must first ask themselves whether their workforce is conscious of their daily performance levels, and whether they are constantly reliving the same issues, which impact upon performance. In many cases, they already know the answer…

Combining performance and freedom

Translated from French. Article from Caroline Hardy, published February 25th, 2019 on www.revuegestion.ca. Click here for the original French version.

 

How far does freedom in management extend? As a human, manager and leader, do you give your teams enough freedom? And for yourself? Do you think about it every day? What are the potential impacts of greater organizational freedom for your business and for society in general?

 

Intervening and Influencing: a definition of freedom

According to economist and philosopher Amartya Sen (1998 Nobel Prize winner), freedom is – among other things – the ability to intervene and influence; a concept he calls “capabilities” (Sen, 2000). Intervening and influencing, two verbs, two behaviors that seem ancient given how basic they are. Yet in 2019, they are also extremely modern and applicable to organizations that evolve in a complex system where everything is intertwined.

The opportunities to make choices in relation to our responsibilities, as well as our aspirations and desires, are potential sources of inspiration in the workforce. There are a variety of impacts on performance related to freedom that we can observe on a daily basis: for example, greater decision-making capacity, increased curiosity about our environment, leading to greater creativity, and increased organizational mobilization. But how do we provide greater freedom in our organization? What elements can allow your teams and employees to influence and intervene?

Here are a few, from the simplest to the most complex, that may help you to initiate organizational dialogue: work hours and places, organizing work, company culture, priority management, employee selection, delivery dates, budget allocation, setting financial margins, organizational strategy, creation of new concepts, research and innovation.

Let us consider a specific case: if employees are allowed to manage their own work schedules, or even their own workplaces, they will opt for the most convenient times of the day, being times and places (whether noisy or not, whether in the office or not) where they are most productive and most likely to create and think in accordance with their own rhythm. This self-determination can increase performance for many.

Freedom, control and performance: the paradoxes

This sense of freedom, which gives wings to many, can also overwhelm others. One of the great organizational paradoxes (Pauchant & Mitroff, 2001) remains that of control vs. freedom; in other words, the importance attached to these two concepts in the “design” of our organizations.

These questions may lead you to think differently about the elements that shape your team’s performance: is your team performing better when the leaders exact control or when they provide greater freedom of choice and action? Is there a ratio, a scale, an optimal balance?

These questions, which seem unanswerable or at least have as many answers as there are people, demonstrate the relevance of understanding who we are as humans. Choosing to give more or less freedom/control to our teams is a strategic choice for
organizations. The choice, when made consciously, allows us to understand the expected and desired behaviors.

Furthermore, this paradox of freedom and control suggests that we can choose the stance that we will take on a daily basis. Great leaders often question themselves. Take a step back. Who are we? What are the needs of the people around us? And who do we want to become? These are the reflections and introspections that lead to greater performance.

Finally, freedom is the ability to choose who we are. Choosing our level of freedom, strategically choosing whether or not our organization is more in control and centralized or innovative, and chaotic. Humans are free to influence and intervene when it comes to the freedom we afford to our teams. Leaders are free to decide how performance will be sustained.

The possibilities

What if giving greater freedom helped accelerate business performance? Is freedom synonymous with fulfillment and well-being? By offering and proposing the freedom to think, choose and act, we welcome a world of possibilities for individuals and organizations.

 

Caroline Hardy
Director of Executive Coaching and Training Programs at Proaction International

 

 

Full house at the inaugural Sommet Performance 2016

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On October 20 of this year at the Westin Hotel, Montreal, the Sommet Performance 2016 took place, and the event, held for the first time, was a great success! Perhaps you weren’t able to attend or you would like colleagues to be able to benefit as well. On April 27, 2017, we invite you to the Sommet Performance : le rappel.

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More than 300 business leaders and decision-makers assembled on October 20 for an exchange of ideas about performance, a hot topic that will help in further promoting and positioning Quebec and Canada on the international scene, as the first two speakers of the day, journalist René Vézina and lawyer Raymond Bachand, mentioned. How to do things differently? Jean-Philippe Raîche, associate and vice president at Proaction International, brought the idea of KBI (Key Behavior Indicator) to the table. The afternoon got off to a creative start with Roch Fortin, international producer and filmmaker, who spoke about the importance of creativity in the workplace and, especially, concrete ways to put it into practice. Michel Coupal, UQAM professor and author, and Mathieu Legault, program director, followed with ideas about attitudes to adopt, impediments to performance, and predictions for the future… Last but not least, François Olivier, president of Transcontinental, shared a fascinating case study concerning performance vision and productivity within his organization.

Conceived and created by Proaction International, the event drew an impressive number of participants and generated media buzz. A case in point is Olivier Schmouker, a journalist with Les Affaires, who said:

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He was referring specifically to Roch Fortin’s presentation.

“We are very happy with how the day went, and the attendees feel the same way, as the comments and survey results indicate,” said Denis Lefebvre, President and Chief Executive Officer of Proaction International.

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fourThe involvement of partners such as the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec and Les Affaires et Manufacturiers et Exportateurs du Québec, as well as collaborators such as STIQ Maillage industriel, the Fédération des Plastiques et Alliances Compositites, FTQ Fonds régionaux, Aéro Montréal and the Conseil de la transformation alimentaire du Québec, assured a great participant diversity. This led to enriching networking opportunities and an atmosphere conducive to the exchange of best practices.

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To see photos and the recap video of the inaugural Performance Summit, or to obtain further information about Sommet Performance : le rappel, please visit: www.sommetperformance.ca.

For information or interview requests, please contact:
Emilie Couturier | info@sommetperformance.ca | 514-284-7447, ext. 305