Protecting New Workers

Protecting worker safety should be a top priority, and if you’re an experienced manager or business owner, you understand how small investments in worker protection can pay off in big ways. Even something as simple as a handrail installation can let employees know that you care about their well- being, and can yield big increases in worker loyalty, commitment, productivity, and retention, not to mention countless savings on injury claims and expensive lawsuits.

But while you value the safety of your entire workforce, keep in mind that new recruits and inexperienced employees represent your most vulnerable population. These are the workers who are most prone to mistakes, misunderstandings, and avoidable mishaps. So these workers require closer managerial attention and stronger protections. Keep these tips in mind.

Supervision Matters

Even if your newer employees know exactly what they’re doing and they’ve performed a certain operation a thousand times during their careers, don’t let them work alone immediately after they’re hired. There may be dangerous aspects of the job that seasoned employees and managers take for granted, and your newer employees may not be prepared to handle these dangers without the presence of watchful eyes. Threats can include improper use of protective gear, neglecting standard cleaning and sanitization methods, and entering dangerous or injury-prone areas without recognizing threats (like overhead equipment, sudden temperature changes, or unexpected loud noises).

Use the Buddy System

Even if they don’t need direct training or managerial supervision, pair new employees with seasoned workers during every task they face throughout the day. Short-term partnerships can provide new employees with protection and mentoring, and current employees with opportunities to practice their leadership and training skills.

Don’t Just Hand Them a Manual

Of course new hires will require a printed (and online accessible) version of an employee handbook, a copy of all company policies that are relevant to their job description. This manual can and should include safety information that can protect new employees from dangerous equipment and workplace areas. But don’t assume that every piece of information in the handbook or manual will be read and memorized. Take responsibility for delivering this information in other formats, especially if it deals directly with issues related to safety. “Didn’t you read the manual?” isn’t a helpful question after a new employee has accidentally placed himself/herself or others in danger.

Make Use of All Teachable Moments

If a new employee makes a small mistake, don’t just forgive and ignore the error assuming that the employee meant well or didn’t know any better. The first few weeks on the job are critical in terms of early training and initiation, and now is the time to point out errors and correct them before they become dangerous habits.

For more on how to protect new workers (and protect others from their potential mistakes), reach out to the hiring, staffing and training experts at Lift Temp.

How to Dress for a Skilled Trade Interview

Here at Lift Temp, we often hear similar questions from job seekers and candidates for both professional and skilled trade positions. Candidates often turn to our experts for resume support, leads, and – of course – questions about the interview process. Here’s one we hear almost every day:

“I’ve been invited to interview for a skilled trade position (carpentry, metalwork, HVAC, auto repair, etc), and I have no idea what to wear. Should I dress formally? Or ready for work? A three-piece suit seems out of place, but it also feels wrong to wear jeans to a job interview. Help!”

Of course the answer will vary slightly according to the position level, industry, and workplace culture, but here are a few general rules that can keep skilled trade candidates on track.

Stay Tour Ready

Chances are, you won’t be asked to step onto the shop floor and perform dirty or potentially dangerous tasks as part of the interview process, so you don’t need to prepare for a day on the job. But there’s a strong chance you may be taken on a tour of the shop floor, garage, factory, or work area. Be prepared to shake hands with your future co-workers, meet your future manager, and walk through areas in which work-related activity may be taking place.

Neatness Above All

As you choose clothes that seem appropriate for a first impression and safe for a tour of the work area, reject all shirts, trousers, and shoes that are worn or stained. Your clothes should look neat enough to pass for brand new. If your very best attire (including shoes) just can’t make the cut, have it professionally cleaned.

Jeans, Skirt, or Dress Pants

Below the waist, wear neutral colors with modest coverage. No shorts, no skirts that rise above the knee, no sweats, and no distressed jeans. Neat, pressed khaki pants or slacks are a perfectly fine choice for both women and men.

Above the Belt

Above the waist, choose a blouse or pressed button-down shirt with long sleeves. Suit jackets and blazers are perfectly acceptable for the interview setting, but are by no means required. Ties are also perfectly acceptable, but you won’t hurt your chances if you leave the tie at home. Women can’t usually go wrong with cardigans or shrugs that feel professional, neat, and new.

Above all, create an impression that suggests cleanliness, order, good repair, and attention to detail. Take the same pride in your appearance that you intend to take in your work. Before you step out the door, take a final look at yourself in a full-length mirror and make sure you’ve taken care of every loose thread, tiny stain, and missing button. Contact the experts at Lift Temp for additional help and job search tips.

The Impact of Turnover on Manufacturing Costs

Are your turnover rates affecting your bottom line more than you realize? Before you dismiss turnover as a standard cost of business or a natural and unavoidable aspect of the manufacturing industry, think twice. A few small changes to your workplace or your management style can keep employees on the team for longer tenures, and turning short term relationships into long-term partnerships can dramatically cut costs and bolster your stability. Here’s how.

Longer Tenures Mean Higher Levels of Institutional Knowledge

If you look around your manufacturing workplace and see mostly new faces, you probably see enthusiasm, high energy levels, a general sense of ambition, and an eagerness to please and impress managers and supervisors. But here’s what you don’t see: ingrained positive habits, an in-depth understanding of company goals, respect for the status quo, lower error rates, and a willingness to teach and lead as well as learn and follow. To move from the first to the second, you’ll need to raise the average tenure on your shop floor.

Longer Tenures Boost Your Reputation

If your employees enjoy working here and are happy to stay, this positivity will have a ripple effect that extends beyond the walls of the company. Your brand and your reputation will extend to friends, family, and wide social and professional networks. As a result, you’ll hear from more and better applicants when you post an open position.

Short Tenures Mean High Risk and Training Investments

If an employee comes on board and stays for less than one calendar year, you may see this as a benefit – especially if the employee seems mistake-prone or has a minor attitude problem. But look closer. If the hiring cost for the position approaches or exceeds the employee’s annual salary, this practice isn’t sustainable. Consider coaching and working with an imperfect employee instead of letting them walk out the door … taking your training investment with them.

Minor Changes Improve Employee Satisfaction

A few small changes that make your workplace feel safer, cleaner, more respectful, or more positive can encourage burned-out or ambitious employees to stay, instead of seeking work elsewhere. When you compare the cost of these improvements with the cost of hiring and staffing during the same year, the difference may surprise you. Even if these improvements include regular salary increases or expanded benefits, the numbers are likely to work in your favor.

For more information on how to improve your workplace, boost your reputation, improve your management style and reduce your overall turnover, contact the expert staffing pros at Lift Temp.

Fired from a Manufacturing Job? How to Explain it in an Interview

You’re looking for a position in manufacturing, and you have almost everything it takes to land the jobs that fall within your sights: you have the right set of skills and all the experience, ambition, and determination you need to get where you’re headed. You only have one problem: you were fired from your last manufacturing position, and you’re afraid this incident may haunt you. How can you address this minor blight on your record if you’re asked about it during your interview? Here are a few simple moves that can help.

If you were laid off, don’t worry.

Losing a job through no fault of your own is simply a rite of passage in our modern working world. There’s nothing about a layoff that needs to be spun, reframed, or hidden from potential employers. If your interviewer believes that a company restructuring or plant shut-down somehow reflects poorly on your personal record, the problem lies with that person, not with you.

Know why your employer may be concerned.

On the other hand, if you were fired due to a behavior or discipline problem or a performance issue, that’s another story. In this case, your employer has a right to be concerned about a possible repeat of the incident, and it’s in your best interests to allay these concerns. If you’re asked about the reason for your dismissal, keep your answer short, clear, and positive. Simply tell your side of the story and then stop talking.

Don’t bring up the subject unless you’re asked.

If you aren’t asked to provide the reason why you left your last job, by all means, don’t volunteer this information. You have no legal or ethical obligation to do so, and jumping in front of this potential problem can cause more harm than good. No matter you how long your employer chooses to dwell on the issue, always be ready to redirect the conversation away from this subject and back toward all the reasons why you’re right for this job. Focus on your skills and talents, not on a single damaging incident from your past.

If you’re asked, explain what you learned from the experience.

How did this incident help you grow as a potential employee and as a person? What did you learn about your abilities and your limits? What did you learn about the kinds of conditions under which you do and don’t excel? Are there any mistakes you made that you’ve learned to avoid from now on? If your interviewer decides to press the point, be ready to discuss what you gained from the moment and how it helped you reach a better place.

For more on how to stay in control of your application and interview process, reach out to the job search team at Lift Temp.

Four In-Demand Skills for Lift Truck Operators

When most employers review a stack of resumes and schedule interviews for potential lift truck operators, they look for the answer to one (fairly obvious) question: Has this candidate ever operated a lift truck? How much experience has he or she had behind the controls? But as it happens, this isn’t the only question that matters. In fact, it may not even make the top five. Plenty of excellent, highly productive employees originally stepped into their interviews with no lift truck experience whatsoever. So if experience isn’t the only signature sign of a great candidate, what other qualities should managers watch out for?

Interest

Keep an eye on the candidates who sit up straight, walk with purpose, and show a strong interest in learning things they don’t already know. A candidate who really wants to excel will excel, even if she’s never operated a lift truck in her entire life. Look for evidence that the candidate cares deeply about what will become of him and what will become of the company that employs him. If your candidate wants to learn, is willing to accept that he doesn’t know everything, and is prepared to make each day on the job more productive and error-free then the last, keep that candidate in the running.

Intelligence

This quality falls below interest, since intelligence alone doesn’t always indicate the ability to gain and perfect a new skill set. But it does matter. If your candidate gets into a difficult predicament or finds herself with a puzzle to solve (mechanical, social, or otherwise) will she be able to figure it out? Will he be able to stay calm and stay in motion? Will he ask for help if necessary? Will she remember the training she’s received?

Flexibility

If your candidate has years of experience in the materials handling industry, then she’s already demonstrated this quality, for sure. But if he’s new to the business, make sure he knows what he’s getting into. Materials handling can be boring and monotonous one day, and utterly unpredictable the next. This work can be dirty, loud, and sometimes thankless. Some days can be very long, and sometimes work dries up without warning. Is your candidate ready for the unexpected?

Social Adaptability

Can your candidate take orders and criticism gracefully? Can she give orders that are clear and direct? Can she follow through on both? Can he get along with others and work well as a member of a team?

For more on how to identify and hire the most reliable candidates, contact the lift truck staffing experts at Lift Temp.

– See more at: http://blog.lifttemp.com/2015/07/four-in-demand-skills-for-lift-truck-operators/#sthash.i4m84WAt.dpuf

Onboarding New Manufacturing Employees

Start your relationship with your new manufacturing employee on the right foot, and make a great impression beginning on their first day. You already know that they’ll be doing the same for you; they’ll be bringing their A-game and stepping into the workplace with the best possible attitude and intentions…So make sure you respond in kind. Demonstrate respect for both the new employee and the position they’re about to take over.

Have Their Workspace and Paperwork Prepared

When your employee arrives at the site, make sure your HR team and their supervisors are ready. Don’t leave themstanding idly for an hour while they wait for a formal welcome and sign-in procedure. Make sure HR, payroll, IT, and of course their own manger all know when they will arrive. Ideally, they should be shown to their work area and be ready to start learning and contributing within a just a few minutes.

Provide Trainers with Clear Instructions

Your new employee may need to be paired with mentors, supervisors, or guides who can walk them through the process and provide a tour of the facility in which they’ll be working. These trainers should know exactly who they are, and they should be well prepared for this task. Don’t just pull someone randomly away from his or her workstation and ask this person to take on the task at the last minute. In most workplaces, this is a very important job with a lasting impact on the new employee’s performance and tenure. Make sure your trainers are carefully chosen and ready for this responsibility.

Provide Accommodations Immediately

If the new employee will require specific data access, passwords, specialized tools, or protective gear in the proper size, take care of this right away. Again, don’t leave the employee performing at half-capacity for hours or days while these basic requirements are being taken care of.

Make the Employee Feel Welcome

The team that will be working with your new employee should know about her arrival well in advance. They should already know their name and role and they should be prepared to welcome them warmly. Encourage your team to provide heartfelt greetings and go the extra mile to speed the acclimation process and help the new employee fit in.

Provide Clear Resources

Most new manufacturing employees will have plenty of questions about their tasks and responsibilities within their first few days and weeks on the job. Make sure your new employee knows exactly where to turn when this happens.

For more on how to train and acclimate new workers on your manufacturing team, reach out to the management experts at Lift Temp.

Overcoming Your Greatest Weakness

Every working person in the world excels in some areas and struggles in others. While some of us are natural experts at organizing spreadsheets, others demonstrate impressive talent with writing, design, budget management, making sense of complex data, remembering names and faces, or motivating teams. When we’re asked (often in an interview setting) to list and describe our greatest strengths, most of us can answer quickly and accurately.

But the same rule doesn’t usually apply when we’re asked to list and describe our greatest weaknesses. These are the skill sets that we’re not so proud of, the areas in which we seem to struggle up the ladder one painful inch at a time, gaining very little reward for a disproportionate level of study and practice. Most of us don’t think much about these areas, and when these tasks need to be addressed, we’d rather hand the responsibility off to almost anyone else in the room. But if you’ve been living a state of avoidance regarding these sore points, now may be a great time to turn the tables and face them head on. Here are a few moves that can help.

Determine what they are.

Be honest with yourself. As you move through an average working day, which tasks do you dislike the most and which do you hand off whenever you have an opportunity? Which ones would you rather avoid for the rest of your life? Look closely; as a common ego defense mechanism, you may tend to casually undermine and dismiss these tasks in order to convince yourself that they aren’t important. But they are. Pretending otherwise won’t help you grow.

Face the facts.

If you’ve placed “typing” on your list, or “accepting criticism” or “interacting with customers”, it’s time to focus your full attention on this task for at least ten minutes each day. Start by reading a few articles or seeking advice from someone close to you who excels at this task. Turn your attention toward experts, mentors, and potential role models. Watch them work and listen closely to any guidance they have to offer.

Put your lessons into action.

When you’re ready, start taking the things you’ve learned and applying them to real-world situations. If you dread public speaking, now is the time to start volunteering for easy speaking opportunities. If you dread giving negative feedback to your direct reports, start offering gentle corrections and constructive criticism.

Set goals.

Determine how far you’d like to take your skill set within one calendar year. When it comes to this area of knowledge or skill, where will you be and what will you be doing this time next summer? Break your larger goal down into smaller goals that you can reach each month, and then each week.

For more on how to tackle and overcome your skill deficits, consult the career management professionals at Lift Temp.

Daily Checks for Forklift Operators

At the beginning of a shift, or just prior to use, forklift operators should take a few minutes to carefully inspect the lift truck they’re about to control. These inspections should happen every single day, regardless of how often the lifting equipment is used of the results of previous inspections. Careful inspection saves lives, prevents injury, and protects equipment and inventory from expensive damage.

As these checks are conducted, users and operators should hold an actual physical list of each inspection item, and should check each item off as they move down the list from top to bottom. Relying on mental lists and checks won’t be enough, no matter experienced operators may be or how familiar they are with their equipment. Every pre-flight check should involve two distinct elements: a visual pre-check and an operational pre-check.

Visual Pre-Check

Here are some of the items that should be included in the visual examination of lifting equipment prior to use:

  • Is the lift truck clean and in generally good condition?
  • Are floor and overhead areas free and clear of obstructions and conditions that could cause an accident?
  • Is there an accessible fire extinguisher in the lift truck that’s charged and functional?

For LPG, gas, and diesel forklifts: Check engine oil levels, check radiator fluid levels, and check fuel levels.

For battery powered forklifts: Check battery for full charge, check plug connections for tightness, wear, and dirt, check for exposed wires, make sure vent caps are unclogged, brackets are secure, and electrolyte levels are adequate.

Make sure all guards, chains, and hydraulic hose reels are tight, secure, present and in good repair.

Check wheels and tires for damage, wear, and proper air pressure.

Make sure forks and anchor pins are straight, unbent and unworn, not cracked and not chipped.

Check hoses to make sure they’re securely fastened, unbent and unworn.

Check seatbelts and overhead guard for damage and flaws.

Test horn for functional and volume.

Pre-Operations Check

These items should be tested and checked before an operator takes control of a lift truck.

  • Test all brakes, including the foot brake, the parking brake, and the deadman seat brake that stops the vehicle when the operator stands up.
  • Check the clutch and gearshift for smooth transitions.
  • Check lift and tilt mechanisms for smooth operation.
  • Check all lights including headlights and traffic signals.
  • Listen for unusual sounds and check for fluid leaks.

For more on how to properly inspect and maintain lift truck fleets and other lifting equipment, reach out to the materials handling experts at Lift Temp.

Distraction in the Workplace: An Avoidable Risk

When most people talk about workplace safety and workplace hazards, they’re referring to environmental, structural, and traffic issues. These might include an absent safety railing on a high ledge, perilously hot ambient temperatures, inadequate noise protection, or poorly maintained machinery. With proper training, most managers and HR pros recognize a standard workplace hazard when they see one (or feel or hear it).

But there’s one workplace problem that doesn’t get as much attention, and is just as likely to cause an accident or injury: distraction. As the saying goes, distracted drivers are as dangerous as inebriated drivers, and the same rule applies to workers. What are you doing to protect your employees from this often preventable hazard? Keep these tips in mind.

Solicit feedback from your teams.

The best way to find out more about the dangers faced by your workers is to simply ask them. Encourage honesty by distributing anonymous surveys and/or maintaining an open door policy so employees can report any problem at any time without fear of judgement or criticism. If any employee in your workplace identifies a potentially dangerous distraction—anything from an overly-bright light fixture to a constantly running TV screen—reward the employee for bringing it to your attention.

Pay close attention to teams who rely on concentration and focus.

If some of your employees are operating potentially dangerous, high speed, or precision machinery, keep a close eye on these employees especially. Enforce regular break periods and rest periods. Deliberately remove anything from the ambient environment that may break their concentration even momentarily. Consider every form of visual and auditory stimulation that comes their way; even a bad smell can derail focus for a crucial second. Reduce these problems at the source.

Coworkers can be the biggest distraction of all.

If your employees work in teams or partner pairs, make sure these pairs are stable and functional. If they aren’t, separate mismatches quickly and rotate pairings on a regular basis. Don’t allow coworkers to threaten each other’s safety, even with well-intended but poorly timed conversation. Provide privacy barriers and sound barriers for work stations that benefit from structural boundaries.

Take all complaints seriously.

Some workers are distracted by sounds and intrusions that don’t bother others. But if an employee complains about a squeaking fan, or flapping tarp, a chatty coworker, a divided responsibility, or an occasional blast of cold air across his or her workstation, don’t dismiss the concern. Address the problem in any way you can; Either eliminate the distraction or shift the employee to another area where the distraction won’t cause an accident.

For more on how to keep your workers safe from all hazards, including innocent distractions, contact the staffing and management experts at Lift Temp.

Safety Education: Prepare Employees from Day One

Keeping your employees safe from on-the-job illness and injury will involve effort on several fronts. First, you’ll need to make sure physical hazards are under control, which will mean careful attention to handrails, pressure valve maintenance, and safe floors. Second, you’ll need to make sure you have strong protocols in place so everyone knows what to do in the moments following an accident. But just as important as both of these plans, you’ll need to cultivate and reinforce a culture of safety. This means educating your employees and making safety a priority for everyone. Here’s how to start this process the first day a new employee comes on board.

Use Visual Cues and Messages

Near every potentially dangerous workstation or piece of equipment, post warnings and safety instructions clearly. Keep the posts (plaquards, posters, or visual symbols) maintained and clearly legible. And make sure they provide enough information to be meaningful and useful. Don’t let them fade or come down simply because these warnings are not needed by senior employees.

Monitor Training and Certification

When managers look around the workplace and see various employees handling forklifts or overhead cranes, they should immediately know where these employees stand in terms of formal training and certification status. No employee with outdated training credentials should operate dangerous machinery for even one day.

Keep Detailed Records as New Employees are Trained

When new employees walk in the door, they’ll probably be paired with a trainer or mentor as they learn the ropes. So make sure these instructors are well chosen, qualified to teach, and able to monitor and accurately report on the progress of their trainees. If one trainer leaves and hands a new employee off to another, the transition should be seamless and should involve the transfer of written documents.

Offer Feedback and Coaching in Real Time

Don’t wait to correct the behavior and habits of new employees. Instead of taking notes and providing feedback at the end of the day, or the end of the week, provide it immediately. If a new employee is using poor technique or skipping part of a pre-shift inspection, intervene and find an appropriate way to alter the behavior and clarify the lesson in the moment.

Managers Should Set an Example

When it comes to safety, don’t allow managers to cut corners or give lip service to rules and policies. Rules governing hard hat zones, equipment checks, or any other aspect of safety should apply to everyone in the workplace, including managers and guests.

For more on how to cultivate and maintain a safe work environment and workplace culture, reach out to the staffing team at Lift Temp .