'Job Sharing' Viewed as Enlightening Experience for Employees

'Job Sharing' Viewed as Enlightening Experience for Employees

Recently, while attending the K/BIS in Chicago, I had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Don Lipp, a former employee of Disney and an author of Even Monkeys Fall from Trees.

Lipp spoke about the responsibilities all of us have in the workplace. One of the things he mentioned was that, at Disney, all employees including top management worked all of the jobs of the other employees. He told a story about how everyone always thinks the jobs of fellow workers are easier than theirs, and that other people's contributions fall short of their own.

I started thinking about our own employees and the things I often hear them say. For example, when an installer says, "The salespeople have the best job because they make the most money and they do the very least. All they do is have people give them money for a new kitchen or bath, and then they go home."

Then I thought about how the drivers say the installers have it easy, "because all they do is install cabinets and it's us who have to load and unload the heavy items, and carry them into the house, while all the installer does is talk to the homeowner and have fun."

And then I thought about how our office staff often expresses the view that not many people appreciate what they do while, in their view, their job is really the most important.

I decided then and there to follow Lipp's example and make everyone in our company do what everyone else does.

We started a sort of job-sharing practice for a few days. Each week we have one or two people go and work with someone else. Installers will sit in on a job presentation, so they'll have the opportunity to see just what it takes to sell a job. The salespeople will go out on an installation, and work for a day or two during different aspects of the job, so that they can get to see just what it takes to install the projects we sell. Similarly, our truck drivers will sit with a customer as a designer explains why the bath or kitchen should be designed as it was.

All of our employees need to understand that in this business, like any other things are not always what they seem to be.

The effects of this practice have been quite interesting. While our production manager used to say things like, "The installers are all a bunch of crybabies. If everything is not just perfect, they complain," now she sings a different tune.

While she was on a install of a project, the plumber had to go in the basement of the house and open a clean-out plug. She was standing there, and suddenly a whole lot of junk came out of the stack pipe, and got all over the plumber. She then watched the installer climb up into the attic to connect and run the vent for the spacesaver microwave oven. It happened to be a 97-degree day. She said when the installer came down from the attic, he looked like he'd just walked out of a shower.

The bottom line? She now has a newfound appreciation for the installers of the projects we sell. Her complaints are much more subdued, because she now realizes that their jobs are no trip to the park.

Since our salespeople have begun job-sharing, we're seeing similar results: Less complaining and a better understanding of the importance of having a complete set of drawings, and an agreement that's complete and detailed. The installers, in turn, are saying, "I never realized how hard it is to sell to some of the people we deal with." And, "How did the designers learn to design, and make everything fit so well?"

We've had installers come with the designer for the final walk-through and see what it takes to collect the final check. Allowing them to see first-hand and from the homeowners' perspective things that aren't completed, or work that's sloppy, makes them better installers. Seeing this has opened the eyes of our installers because they do not want this on their projects.

The entire attitude of the company personnel has changed since we implemented our job-sharing practice, because they're all sitting in the other person's seat. We think that this sort of job sharing is going to make a world of difference in the attitudes of all of our personnel.

One word of caution, however, should you decide to proceed: The one rule we have is that no one goes on a project they were involved with. In other words, designers cannot go on their own jobs to work with the installer, and installers cannot go on the job they are going to install or a job they worked on.

As an owner of the company, it's equally important that you go out on the truck for deliveries, work on a job for a day and see what has changed, work in the warehouse, or help unload a truck of cabinets for a client. Similarly, you should sit with the designers and see how they're selling or presenting projects. This can only enhance your company, and more than likely improve the working relationships with all the company employees.

Thompson Price
Callier & Thompson
Kitchens and Baths
Manchester, MO