Drowning Staff Needs a Lifeline | Atkinson Consulting
Consultant to the Decorated Apparel Industry | Helping Shops Succeed
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Drowning Staff Needs a Lifeline

Drowning Staff Needs a Lifeline


I was recently speaking with an owner of a shop that was lamenting about the lack of talent, drive and knowledge in her shop.  She was very frustrated that she couldn’t find good workers to help get her business growing and wanted to know the best way to attract better employees.

During the conversation, I asked her to describe her current workforce, their in-house training program and what they do to help employees move up the ladder.  My thought was maybe her current staff members could rise up and fill the needed positions easily, as they already have a lot of internal workplace knowledge.

Her response shocked me.

“Oh, we don’t have time to train.  I’m not going to do that.  I expect people I hire to know what they are doing.”  She then went on to tell me that they barely get 1,000 impressions from any of their automatic presses a day.  She was 100% adamant that it is the worker’s responsibility to learn how to operate the equipment for production success.

I don’t know about your shop, but if my production crews were only printing 175 pieces an hour, I’d be looking at finding out why, getting them some training and holding them more accountable.

I’m certainly not trying to embarrass anyone here, but I did want to point out that as shop owners or managers it is up to you to ensure your team’s success.  Transferring the responsibility to learn industry knowledge to your work staff is tantamount to disaster.  It’s too complicated and frankly, changes so much, how do you expect them to keep up? Who was decorating Dri-Fit stuff at our current level ten years ago?  Just wait until we have to start decorating 3D printed garments, or apparel that has built in sensors.  Some days just diagnosing why a job won’t register seems impossible.

If your mentality is to just hire people and push them into the deep end of the pool and expect them to swim, who’s fault is it when they drown?

This industry is difficult enough on it’s own without hamstringing your staff by not working with them to master their craft.  Training shouldn’t be a DIY course.

Sadly, this isn’t a rare occurrence.  I’ve read in online forums, met people at trade shows, and even have received emails from people that want to grow and succeed in this industry, but are being held back by their managers or owners from learning something new.  “Sorry, but they won’t teach me how to print, I’m on my own.”, was what one young worker wrote recently.

These employees are reaching out from the deep end of the pool looking for someone to help them.  Who is going to throw them that lifesaver ring?

Where do you stand on this subject?  Are you on the side of the fence that demands your staff acquire their work knowledge on their own?  Or, are you constantly investing in their industry education and training?  Maybe a little of both?  Be honest.

Did you train anyone do do anything new in your shop yesterday?  Today?

This topic has me a little concerned about how shops manage their staff.  While the common outcry has long been “we can’t find any good workers”, I just don’t see many companies that have significant training programs.  Your new printer or embroiderer is already working for you now.  I’ve spoken with some of the best industry thought leaders on this topic over the years, and all agree that the best long term staff members on their teams were “grown” with continual education starting at the entry level.  They all have significant training programs, built on learning different aspects of the business, not just one specific task.

When you meet with your team members during performance reviews, do you ask them where they see themselves in your company in three years or so?  What would they like to do for you?  This is important, as when there’s little hope of advancement or dreams of learning something new, self-motivation and curiosity abate.

It’s no wonder this lady has so many personnel problems in her shop.  Every position there is a dead end job.

Take my poll below!

Also, if you are doing something special with employee training in your shop or would like to enhance this conversation, please leave something in the comments section.  Thanks!

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