November 11, 2014 – Colleen Niese - Insights

Front Line Associates – Are They A Commodity or an Asset?

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The Boston Globe reported yesterday an aggressive movement by Teamsters Local 25 unionizing parking operators at a fairly steady clip, at least for unions. The reporter, Katie Johnson, cited “third world working conditions” as one of the key drivers helping the union market to potential members to organize. Both national brands and local operators continue to be the target for the teamsters’ efforts, and at least according to this reporter, they are succeeding more than not.

Which brings about the age-old debate: are hourly workers a commodity or asset? It seems the output of this conversation, at least through our work with more than forty public and private operators nationwide, is evenly divided. What’s more interesting is the number of executives who aren’t quite sure where their companies land on this spectrum. To gain clarity for your organization, honestly assess the company’s approach to hiring, developing and leading front line associates.

First Impressions. Examine the current recruitment program and how applicants are processed throughout. Are they treated more like individuals than numbers? Give one to the asset column if so. If you need further prompting to decide, take a good look into how they learn about your company, culture, and most importantly your employer value proposition; i.e., what they gain, outside a paycheck, in return for consistently meeting or beating company expectations to gain that clarity.

Training vs. Telling. This is an easy one: if your training program stops short of explaining to employees why they perform a particular procedure, put a check in the commodity column. Companies who truly believe their people are their greatest asset, don’t just include the why, they start with it, recognizing that employees who understand the connection between importance of their work and the company’s success are engaged and demonstrate markedly higher levels of discretionary effort.

They’re all thieves. Honestly evaluate leaders, at all levels, and their general treatment of frontline associates. Do they truly believe this level of employee is a valued contributor to meeting objectives and company goals or is the disposition more of distrust and the “they all steal from you eventually” sentiment? The answer puts the check in the respective column and also speaks to self-fulfilling prophecy. Adults will treat the job in the same manner in which they themselves are treated; so a quick gut check on your leadership’s effectiveness will pretty much tell you all you need to know regarding how your hourly workforce is behaving on the lot.

Are you interested in more information about improving the workplace for hourly associates? uDrive subscribers have access to tools and templates that can help. These can be found in the Recruitment, Onboarding, HR Tools and Resources for the Parking Manager sections of the site.