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Improving the Foreman Position – A Study by Artur Victoria

When management is confronted with serious problems such as a sudden increase in manufacturing costs, it often overlooks the obvious approach to a solution: going directly to the supervisors at the first line, where the money is spent, to find out what has gone wrong and why.

The human resources executive is able to persuade top management that these problems could be resolved only if a true appraisal is made of the present status of the foreman position, with all its attendant problems. Top management commissions the human resources executive to make this study, and he selected his own team. The time allotted is short, and good results have to be obtained.

The objectives of the study team is twofold: first, identify the forces, if any, which hamper the effectiveness of the foreman and diminish his motivation; second, come up with recommendations for removing these negative forces and thus bringing excess costs down to a reasonable, acceptable limit. Major emphasis was placed on production foremen.

The personal interview technique is adopted by the study team. Starter questions included these:

– Has the foreman position changed in the past two years? If has, in which important ways?

– Has the foreman responsibility increased, decreased, or remained the same in the past two years? If has changed, in what important ways?

– Does the present management organization exert an influence on the foreman position? If so, explain how.

– Is the present organization of the factory sound and effective? If not, in what specific ways can it be improved?

– What are the major problems facing the foreman today? How would you solve these problems?

– Where should management get men to fill foremen’s positions?

– Are new foremen adequately trained? If not, how can training be improved?

– Do foremen receive proper assistance and guidance from the managers to whom they report? If not, in what ways can management be improved?

– Is present communication with the foreman sufficient and effective? If not, how could it be improved?

– What can management do to improve the foreman’s position?

– What is the foreman’s present attitude toward his job and the company?

– How does the foreman feel about his pay, his organizational level, and his status?

The information obtained from the interviews is pooled with an earlier foremen attitude survey, comparative salary surveys, and exit interviews of minority group employees who had voluntarily left the company. The information generated from these interviews and other sources seemed to divide itself into five major areas: the foreman position, recruitment and training, communication, pay and recognition, and attitudes.

“The new employees just do not seem to care” is the general complaint. While the basic responsibilities of the foremen remain about the same, the problems had become numerous and complex, resulting in poor quality, low productivity, and missed schedules.

As business expanded, as foremen grew older, and as new employees required additional supervision, there is a concern as to where the new foremen would come from because it is virtually impossible to recruit from outside. The foremen themselves felt that there were good candidates in the ranks, even among newly hired employees. Everywhere, there is a concern about additions and replacements. Among those needed were not only foremen but production control people, time standards personnel, and dispatchers.

The foreman who is aware of the general business situation and what is happening in his department is without doubt better prepared to do his job, even though he could operate effectively without this knowledge. However, if the foreman is not aware of changes in schedule, hold-ups in delivery of parts or supplies, or shortages of needed tools, the immediate consequences are apparent and costly. If he knows what is affecting his day-to-day operations, he can communicate this to his people and prevent problems.

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