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Front-Office Leaders, Get Out on the Floor and Talk to People

Feb. 23, 2022
Five benefits of spending more time in the production area.

Two years ago, I traded in my business-casual work attire for steel-toed boots and a hard hat, and it was the most career-altering decision I have made to date. Working alongside my company’s production team as their financial analyst has opened my eyes to the many challenges production workers face.

Business-side leaders, never underestimate how much your presence in the production area will mean. Commonly referred to as “management by walking around,” this practice could be a game-changer. Here are five benefits that you will see from spending more time in the production area.

1. Increased Knowledge

Being on the production floor will only increase your knowledge of the business. Many front-office leaders have never been in a trades position. They’ve never turned a wrench or operated machinery for their company. Many come right out of college and start climbing the corporate ladder without truly understanding the manufacturing side of the company they work for.

How can contract administrators accurately price and negotiate contracts without walking the job and learning the ins and outs? How can procurement managers effectively purchase material for systems that they have never seen function?

Front-office leaders can perhaps go through the motions of their job duties without working with production, but imagine how much better their quality of work would be by traveling down the value stream.

2. Greater Engagement

There are numerous studies linking employee engagement to business success. Increased engagement is positively related to customer ratings, profitability, productivity and quality.

Being on the production floor and interacting with those workers shows them that the white-collar side of the business sees them and recognizes the job they are doing, and validates that their jobs are essential and the company cares about them.

This may be especially important today with many front-office workers being remote. Those who take the initiative to come into work and see what is going on physically will definitely be noticed and appreciated.

3. Active Problem-Solving

How often do leaders sit around a conference table discussing issues with production without talking to the tradesmen and women who are having the problem? Leaders who walk the floor can get firsthand information on these issues by watching the situation in action and speaking with employees.

They can ask questions of workers who are directly impacted by decisions that they make. For example, leaders may ask how long a task actually takes, instead of assuming that their budget for that task was correct the first time they issued it. They could also ask something as basic as what they can do to help shop-floor workers do their jobs better.

4. Spotting Promising Talent

Being out on the production floor and speaking with employees may just lead you to find your next great team member. There is likely a diverse group of people working for your company who can bring their skills into the front office. You may find an employee who could use a mentor. You may find a grossly underutilized employee and be able to provide them with more significant opportunities.

However, you may never meet these people sitting in an office.

5. Setting a Precedent

Lastly, business leaders frequenting the production areas will genuinely set a precedent for other areas of the company to follow suit. Middle managers should join senior management for walks, and when one team starts this practice, others will join. It will only take one person, or one group, to begin positively talking about their experience to create a ripple effect through their department, then division, then the entire company.

Reallocating a mere one hour per week to walk production areas, and your company could reap all these benefits. Your business knowledge will increase immensely, and you should see greater employee engagement throughout the company.

All of this in exchange for approximately one hour of your time per week? Now that’s a good deal!

Chelsea Saunders works in financial analysis at Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries. She is also an MBA student at Regent University.

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