The Treadway Tire Company
Background The Treadway Tire Company is a major supplier of goods for replacement tire markets and original equipment manufacturers such as Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. In 2000, Treadway’s Lima Tire Plant underwent a $100 million expansion which increased the plant’s capacity to utilize new technology for the manufacturing department. However, due to the rising cost of raw materials, increase global competition, and the high turnover rate of the line foreman, the Lima tire plant was challenged to increase productivity.
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Ashley Wall, the director of human resources at the Lima Plant, knew she could not control the rising cost of raw materials, and she knew she could increase productivity and reduce cost by decreasing the turnover rate of the line foreman. The high employee turnover rate of the line foreman is a serious issue threatening the productivity of the Lima tire company. After the closing of the Greenville, South Carolina plant in 2006, the Lima plant went to continuous operations to handle the additional volume.
Therefore, the company decided to implement two 12-hour shifts instead of the old three 8-hour shifts to increase the performance potential. During these stressful 12-hour shifts, line foreman were expected to handle personnel, resource, and administrative issues. There were additional issues which affected the job satisfaction of the line foremen. For example, line foreman were expected to exceed target production numbers while having a lack of formal training as a foreman and the lack of upper management support while disciplining hourly union employees.
Line foremen were at constant conflicts with the union, upper management, and hourly employees. Many of these line foremen felt isolated and undervalued due to the fact that since 2007 only one line foremen had been promoted to general supervisor. Due to this poor work environment, the job satisfaction of line foreman decreased. Problem The high turnover rate of the line foremen is due to the fact that overworked line foremen must meet or exceed company performance expectations without a formal integrated training program, the constant conflicts with he union hourly staff, and the lack of support by upper management. Relevant Theories and Models The poor morale amongst employees contributes to the high job dissatisfaction and high turnover within the Treadway Lima tire plant. Understanding the consequences of job dissatisfaction by employees can be seen in the exit-voice-loyalty-neglect framework. These non-union foremen employees are unable to voice their dissatisfaction with union hourly employees through a grievance committee meeting. The line foremen also had no control in regards to disciplining any hourly employee.
Line foremen did not have the voice mechanism for them to continue their jobs and know that their job situation would improve. The exit and neglect behavior deal with problems such as absenteeism, decreased productivity and increase turnover within the organization. These behaviors are defined by the lack of training given to foremen to be successful at their job. The line foremen position had high expectations without having adequate control over their work environment. The demand/control model by Karasek illustrates the conflict that line foremen were having within their position.
The key concept of the demand/control model is that high demand/low control jobs lead to higher job dissatisfaction and high turnover rates. Foremen were expected to meet and exceed daily production numbers while not having the support of employees above them or below them. Many line foremen felt powerless when they had to discipline an hourly employee. Many line foremen felt as though these employees were protected by the union. Also, the lack formal training given to line foremen made them feel as though they had no control managing their work duties.
Herb Adams, the general supervisor, informed others that he did not have time to hold the hands of the line foremen. However, the foremen dealt with an extremely demanding job. For example, the plant manager Bellingham stated “Meeting performance goals is the most important duty of the line foremen”. His expectation of the job duties of salaried foremen allowed for the added demand to their job. Alternatives The Treadway Tire Company can address this poor job satisfaction amongst life foremen in several ways. For example, Ashley Wall could implement a line foremen training program.
After a formal training program, a refresher program could be given periodically so that the foremen know that the company is trying to do everything to keep them informed. The lack of a formal training program does not give employees the support or tools to succeed. Even though a formal training program would have up-front expenses, it would eliminate the sink or swim mentality of the foremen, increase productivity, and increase the morale of the organization with the added education. This program would initially be expensive; however reducing employee turnover rate will increase productivity in the long run.
This training program could cover how to improve day to day plant operations such as the proper interaction between union and non-union employees, the most effective way to discipline employees, and education on management techniques. A second alternative for the Treadway Tire Company is to establish a program for feedback by employees. Bellingham, the plant manager, states the decreased morale within the foremen division is due to the lack of communication. In a stressful work environment such as the line foremen position employees need to know that if they have a problem, they will be able to voice their concerns and arrive at a solution.
A formal communication system will allow foremen to discuss hidden problems within their job duties so that they can be handled by the organization. However, a disadvantage of this program would be if the company gathered all the employee feedback without taking action to correct the problems. By not taking actions to improve foremen work-related problems, the morale would further decrease. Another alternative is to level off the workload of line foremen. Line foremen leave Treadway Tire Company because they are overworked due to the high demands of the job.
Foremen must resolve equipment issues, administrative issues, and manage hourly employees. By reducing the workload of the line foremen, the amount of stress foremen experience during their long strenuous work shifts would decrease. The stress that these line foremen experience has huge financial effects within the organization. For example, every time a line foremen leaves his or her position, they must hire another line foremen. While the new foremen becomes adjusted to his job, the production of the team usually drops, therefore decreasing production revenues.
However, by leveling off the workload of the line foremen, the company will be forced to hire another seasoned staff member who would have added financial constraints to an organization that wants to reduce their costs. Solution A solution to the high turn-over rate of foremen would be to provide a “New Foremen” training course and continued professional development for veteran foremen. In addition to the training courses, the company will have to reevaluate their management structure and assign foremen over specific areas. The “New Foremen” training will consist of the company’s vision and mission.
During the training the recently hired foremen will understand the company’s structure in depth and understand the direction of the company. They will be trained in the areas of: conflict resolution, increasing and maintaining staff morale, scheduling, payroll. Training will also include other duties not typically assigned to the foremen so that they will know what level of performance to expect from the employees. During the training foremen will have the opportunity to work with other foremen so that they can share experiences and help each other resolve issues amongst themselves and employees under their supervision.
Ongoing professional development will maintain the high level of professionalism and productivity because it will remind the foremen of the company’s vision. The periodic professional development will provide the foremen with the mission. During these ongoing professional developments foremen will be able to understand the changes of the company, reconnect with other foremen, and become acquainted with any new laws or changing company procedures.
However, there are several disadvantages when developing a formal training program. For example, there may be resentment amongst non-participants in other departments. Other employees may feel as though the organization is offering favoritism towards the line foremen. As noted earlier, a formal training would likely be expensive and complex due to the long list of issues concerning the foremen. Administration would have to spend long and costly hours to develop a program to answers to the problems of the line foremen.