Monday, November 29, 1999

Faster employees inspire colleagues to bolster output

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Toronto, June 16 (IANS) You wouldn't think that there would be much similarity between a hockey line and an automobile assembly line.However, University of Alberta (UofA) management-science researcher Ken Schultz says that both groups can learn something about line design and human behaviour to help them perform better.Schultz analysed production-line data from a General Motors plant and identified that there seemed to be a shift in how fast the task was completed.Schultz found that an individual's performance level may directly inspire other co-workers to change their work behaviour to match the former's output.Schultz ties the results of their study to the principle of equity theory, or the idea that motivation comes from fair treatment - a good day's work for a good day's pay.'The workers may think 'we're not really connected, so I have no real reason to care about how fast you are working. But I'm a human being and I do care, and I do notice',' said Schultz, who concluded that is possible for 'people [to] change based on what they see'.However, Schultz noted, simply switching people on teams will not produce the desired effect. In a plant, as in hockey, knowing which players to change will provide the most benefit.'You'd look for the person who's a good performer but doesn't react to others around him; that's the person you want to move to the low-level team,' he said, because 'there's a good chance he's going to be a person who has proven to be a leader'.Schultz also noted that the design of the workspace is equally important in influencing productivity, yet is an aspect that is ignored when designing new plants or redesigning workspaces.The key is to arrange the area so that workers are facing each other when performing their tasks, rather than facing away from each other, or in same direction.Allowing the workers to observe and monitor the speed of their co-workers is the necessary catalyst for the behavioural change to occur, he said, according to an UofA release.'You don't have to say anything, you don't have to do anything, you don't have to put a flashing light over their head, said Schultz. 'Just make sure people can see each other and allow the workers to do what they would naturally do.'These findings were published in Management Science.

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