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School for Foremen – from White to Blue Collars
Róbert Debnár, 20. 02. 2015

Why is a Foreman Important for Our Company?

Only few managers are aware of the importance of the foreman’s position in the company. Let’s analyse it together – the foreman, supervisor or team leader, no matter how we call this position in the companies, leads, as a rule, 80 % of all employees in the firm and moreover, he/she is also the main bearer of the enterprise know-how.

In my opinion the foreman’s skills affect the competitive ability of the company more than the top management itself. Do you ask why? Because the level of the top management is almost the same in all companies. The owners and shareholders employ the best and skilled people for these positions and moreover, they invest a lot of resources to their development. However, the foremen have different skills and quality in various firms. In some companies their competences are close to those of the line managers, in other firms they are young and unskilled people who were frequently educated for different occupations or services than the orientation of the company is. During plenty of analyses we have realised in more than 200 companies the HR departments boasted how much they invest into the trainings of their employees. After a short analysis it is clear that the investments flow to the top management’s development in the form of various academies, MBA studies, etc. The planned budget is also divided among purchasers and business people in the form of the personality development or so called soft skills. When we start speaking about foremen, the HR managers present most frequently the compulsory trainings ordered by laws or trainings aimed at development of the computer literacy. Of course, we have found also companies that invested to development of foremen, however, in the majority of cases the courses were paid by the EU funds and they belonged to the areas enforced by the EU calls. During these trainings which lasted 8 hours the foremen had to absorb more than 200 slides and left the training saying "this only theory, nothing for us…”

The goal of this article is to answer especially the following questions:

  • How to prevent appointing unprepared and from the management point of view inexperienced employees to the foreman positions only because you have no other choice?
  • What should a company do to have skilled foremen?


How to Recognise Who I Want

We are sure if it is clear what type of foremen we would like to employ then there is a bigger chance we will find them. A good selection or our own development. There is one common denominator – the fact that the company has to able to define who an "ideal foreman” is. You may say – it is clear, why all these questions? However, it is not that simple. I have had opportunities to define the foremen’s personality and professional profile in several companies. We were doing it mostly together with the HR and production department staff. I came and stood at the flipchart and asked the representatives of these departments to dictate me their ideas. Deathly silence. "Mr. Debnár, what do you understand under the expression personality profile, don’t you have any examples from other companies?” At that moment it was clear they had never done it before and as a matter of fact they did not know what types of people they are looking for or in which areas they would like to develop them. Try it, it will take 2 to 4 hours, but only things that will join the representatives of the HR and production departments – the fact they discuss the matter and exchange their opinions is important – is the value added.

The personality profile essentially represents which management capacities the foreman should possess, which approach and abilities/behaviour he/she should have.

The professional profile represents the professional, technical and computer skills, the knowledge of the company internal processes/systems, numerical capability, etc. In the table I introduce a foreman profile as an example from a particular company.

 

Personality Profile

Professional Profile

Communication

Ability of logical thinking
Ability of using logical arguments
Ability to solve conflicts
Presentation skills
Ability to give feedback (criticism)

Knowledge of selected methods

Knowledge of Lean Production
Techniques of problem-solving
Improving processes

Motivation

Ability to motivate others
Effective motivation
Ability of self-motivation
Ability to enthuse people

Computer knowledge

Excel – level of contingency table

Behaviour during changes

Ability to enforce changes
Ability to make decisions under pressure
Coping with load and stress
Positive reactions to changes
Ability and willingness to learn

Knowledge of internal company processes

Orientation on internal customer
Knowledge of company strategy
Knowledge of products
To know how to work with IS

Leadership

Leading and managing people
Proactive approach
Ability to collaborate
Drive towards the goal – orientation on result
Ability to take over responsibility
Ability to teach others

Other knowledge

Technical knowledge
Knowledge of basic legislation
Basic economic knowledge
Numerical capability

Emotional component

Assertiveness
Empathy
Ability to accept criticism (feedback)
Willingness to help

Positive approach to other people

 


Figure 1 A Foreman Profile


First of all, the foreman profile will open our eyes and we will define what type of people we actually want for this position. Unfortunately, we will not get the answer how individual foremen fulfil this profile.


How to Detect the Foremen’s Quality


We believe that if we are able to answer this question, we will save a lot of work and expenses. Why? Because we will not train the foremen in an across-the-board-manner but we will divide them into groups:

 

  • A group of foremen who do not need any further development, they fulfil the profile to 90 – 100 %. I would like to say I have met this type of foremen during my 18-year practice only rarely (estimation – 5 %).
  • A group of foremen with clearly defined constraints and it is clear it makes sense to work with them. This group accounts for approximately 80 %.
  • A group of foremen with clearly defined constraints and it is clear it does not make any sense to continue working with them. It is better to fire these people – due to their attitude and engagement – and not to waste resources for their change or to believe in a miracle – the size of this group is usually up to 15 %.

There are available a few tools for assessing the foremen. At present the following tools are the most spread ones:

  • Assessment Centre
  • Testing – psychological + professional
  • 360° Assessment

The output is the Foreman Profile and a definition of his/her strengths and weaknesses in comparison with the population of the Czech Republic and Slovakia and a proposal of his/her further development.


Figure 2 Individual Foreman Profile 


Figure 3 Assessment of Personality Profiles – Result 


Figure 4          Assessment of Professional Profiles – Result


Why Have We Done All of This?


The advantages of the suggested procedure are apparent in several areas as follows:

 

  • identifying the "talents” – they are those employees who have a potential and there is an assumption they will be able to occupy also higher management positions. It is necessary to develop this group systematically and in an objective-oriented way.
  • to take part in the School for Foremen – as a rule, it is a combination of the soft and hard modules, we recommend to combine them.
  • the tool of managing development and career growth for supervisors and HR employees – optimisation of the human resources (see the figure 5).
  • the self-recognition – based on the feedback the foremen are able to undergo corrections and changes of their routine behaviour.
  • the material for the assessment interview – the leading employees will acquire information about strengths and weaknesses of their employees.

 Figure 5 Implementing the Assessment Results into the Organisational Structure


          

Figure 6 Content of the Study – an Example from a Particular Company

 

What’s the Difference?

Also regarding to investigations which show that people usually remember:

 

  • 15 % of the information they heard
  • 25 % of the information they saw
  • 50 % of what they heard and saw at the same time
  • 90 % of what they themselves did orexperienced

Knowledge Acquired through Information

Knowledge Acquired through Vision

Knowledge Acquired through Experience

We will remember after 3 weeks

70 %

72 %

85 %

We will remember after 3 months

10 %

32 %

65 %

 

we based our School for Foremen on trainings connected with experiences. There is minimum of theory in the hard modules, part of the lessons is realised at shop floors during operation where the participants carry out various analyses and observations. The phases of looking for an appropriate solution and implementation are realised during a hosted workshop. A catalogue of measures or an already realised change in dependence on the particular topic is the output of these activities.

For the training to have a higher effectiveness and more benefits, it is completed by the so called inspection days. During the training the participants are assigned tasks or mini-projects. The goal is for the participants to train or implement a particular tool/method at their workplaces. The mini-projects aimed at the process optimisation bring benefits in the form of cost savings. There are cases that the foreman who graduated from the School for Foremen introduces the 5S methodology, saves 30 % of the setup time or removes wastage and increases the process effectiveness. During the inspection day the participants present what and by what method they realised changes during the previous period of time.


Conclusion

 

It is necessary to realise that the development of the employees´ skills is a continuous process of providing opportunities for trainings and personal development oriented on improving the knowledge and development of the employees´ skills. In a modern enterprise the process of education belongs to real assumptions for a successful achievement of the defined goals. It also serves for the enterprise to be successful in the difficult competitive conditions. Therefore it is necessary for the companies to think about the fact how the education contributes to fulfilling the long-term business targets and to respond flexibly to all changes of the internal and external environment and the conditions as well.

We believe this procedure of the foremen’s and the middle management’s development will be able to make your training process more effective and will save costs of education in your company.

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