“Jane Jacobs argued, contrary to common wisdom in the 1960’s, that streets are safer when more people are on them. They are also safer when people are able and willing to watch the street from windows. InThe Death and Life of Great American Cities, she explains how to make public streets and public spaces secure. Her ideas are a prescription for real crime prevention, not simply a way to achieve a feeling of security. Safe, well-used streets are inherently livable streets.”
Following the wisdom of Jacobs and by applying her principles to labor supervision, I created and adopted this recognition system template in the summer of 2013, later known as the “student worker acknowledgement grid — or swag sheet,” to quickly collect data on the work habit and work ethic of my students, liked the results and later used it with my workers.
This tracking system gave us real-time performance data that:
- required supervisors to become more engaged with the work of their subordinates,
- allowed us to give specific and periodic recognition (based upon the principles outlined in Aubrey Daniels book “Bringing Out the Best in People”),
- track growth/ regression of our workers, &
- gave the inexperienced workers a sense that the management was involved with their success.
This experiment actually resulted in a significantly measurable rate of improved performance.
The swag sheets were effective I believe for the following reasons:
1) Required supervisors to become more engaged with the work of their subordinates: rather than sit around and dictating orders or assignments, supervisors were expected to walk around the building, identify the name and appearance of each of their subordinates. Often after the workers had gotten to know their supervisors better, they’d ask about the data collection and once the students knew they were being watched and recorded, they were much more willing to complete their tasks because they didn’t want a track record that they weren’t contributing. Supervisors were either enthusiastic or apprehensive about collecting data and most were very good about finding out other information about their workers, helping them find supplies or troubleshoot difficulty they may have been having, or letting the supervisor know of potential scheduling conflicts. In previous years, because the roles weren’t clearly defined and supervisors weren’t involved at this level, there was a lot of confusion between supervisors and workers about who was working, when, which or whether supervisors should be approached about concerns, etc., so the swag sheets were effective in alleviating quite a bit of that confusion. The swag sheets also made it easier for supervisors to pass information along quickly about what tasks had been assigned and to whom when they were switching shifts.
2) Allowed us to give specific and periodic recognition (based upon the principles outlined in Aubrey Daniels book “Bringing Out the Best in People”), Daniels talks about the failure of annual performance appraisals and employee of the month initiatives to motivate employees and how the rate of improvement in employee performance could be significantly achieved using specific positive reinforcement. You can read more about Daniels work here in the publication Positive Reinforcement: Misunderstood and Misused.
3) Tracked growth/ regression of our workers: this allowed us to be able to track performance issues related to supervisor engagement, the impact of policy changes on worker performance and retention, or areas of mismanagement. It also helped us to identify and reaffirm the things we were doing right. We could look at indicators like absenteeism, history of task completion and so on to identify when workers were suffering from issues outside of work, to track illnesses, time falsification and even incidents of worker fraternization.
4) Gave our inexperienced workers a sense that the management was involved with their success: the increase in oversight and involvement improved employee attitudes and most workers saw the passive approach to monitoring less invasive because they’d received an increase in communication. As a result we’ve had one of the highest employee and leadership retention rates in the history of our department in a very long time.
So I suppose we have that to be proud of.