Catch ‘Em Being Good

This moldmaker eschews scheduled performance reviews in favor of a spontaneous approach that ensures not just good work, but consistently good work.


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Andy Joly, senior toolmaker (right), looks on as apprentice machinist Brian Johnston reassembles a mold and prepares it for validation. Spontaneous performance reviews for senior and junior employees alike contribute to the shop’s culture of continuous improvement. (Photo courtesy of Creative Technology Corp.)

There’s nothing wrong with setting goals, but making the link between performance and reward too obvious can have drawbacks on the shop floor. So says Ray Coombs, president of 2014 Leadtime Leader award winner Westminster Tool. For that reason, staffers at the Plainfield, Connecticut shop never know when, exactly, they’ll get a formal performance review.

Coombs says this uncertainty helps eliminate the all-too-human tendency to do everything by the book in advance of a review, only to go back to old habits later. Instead, he prefers to “catch ‘em being good” – that is, to recognize and reward good work spontaneously. As a result, he says employees constantly strive to get better, as opposed to shooting for some specific target that may or may not represent the best way to improve their own performance or that of the overall company.

As an example, he cites a raffle conducted at a recent company Christmas party. Featuring about $7,000 worth of prizes, the raffle was based on the company’s “idea system,” in which everyone in the organization is required to come up with at least one idea per month (read this article for more information). Each implemented idea earned the originating employee two tickets. Thus, the more ideas an employee came up with, the greater the reward (particularly for the top performers, who earned a weekend vacation getaway).

Critically, however, no one knew they were participating in the raffle until it actually occurred. Otherwise, people might have focused on generating as many ideas as possible rather than focusing on the real goal: making the operation more efficient. “This way, those who did what they were supposed to do, and did it well, had a better chance of being rewarded,” Coombs says.

“Catch ‘em being good” is just one aspect of a workforce development strategy that is anything but typical—and that played an outsized role in winning the shop this year’s Leadtime Leader award. Read the article to learn more. You can also take a video tour of Westminster as well as Aalbers Tool and Mold, winner of the 2014 Leadtime Leader Honorable Mention award.