Dear Workforce How Do We Get People to Focus on Details?

Dear Misunderstood:

Getting people to focus on the detail is often something that sticks for awhile, and then falls off as it becomes habit. Helping staff stay focused is a key skill for managers.

There are consequences when details get missed. Whether it is a customer with a problem, incorrect billing or other negative situation, it is vital to stay on top of the details. Encouraging people to focus on the details does not have to cost money. One option: Track how much time goes by (or how many transactions take place) without a mistake. This technique brings regular awareness to the consequences, without pointing fingers or calling people out. If there is something missed, the team has to reset the counter to zero and start over. Typically, group members will help each other to avoid having to start over.

Another option is to create checks and balances. If work passes through more than one person’s hands, each can check the other on key details to ensure everything gets handled. Set this up as part of the workflow retraining if someone has too many errors. If the retraining still doesn’t work, it will benefit the team to be reminded that everyone is accountable by removing that mistake-prone individual from the team.

If the work is handled only by individuals, building a system of rewards with “levels” of achievement can help people stay on top of the details. The rewards they earn don’t necessarily have to be monetary. Enabling employees to leave 30 minutes early after so many accurately done transactions may be all it takes.

Take a lesson from video games: Give titles, award a trophy or provide other recognition that rewards people for staying on top of the details.

The key with helping employees stay focused: Don’t make it needlessly complex of difficult. Adding stress or threats to an already detailed job can cause people to make more mistakes rather than fewer. Positive encouragement will
go much further.

SOURCE: Kathy Breitenbucher, managing partner, The Pedestal Group, Medina, Ohio

LEARN MORE: Managers’ ability to communicate performance expectations is crucial, experts say.

Workforce Management Online, September 2011Register Now!

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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