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Questionnaires can help create high-quality, productive workforces

 When a workplace is established and operational, a number of assumptions are made, even if they are not expressed. The most direct method to determine the situation is by asking the workers. The questionnaire should ask the responder’s name so that the interviewer can get more information and follow up when negative response are given.

The next step is to interview the negative responders to get as much information as possible about the problem areas. It is important that the interviewer be knowledgeable about the processes and have a technical background. If a number of workers indicate the same problems, the interviewer can get an understanding of the extent of the problems. Then, solutions can be formulated for presentation to the management.

Many negative responses were received regarding the information question. Interviews were conducted with the negative responders, and two major problems were discovered: The managers were not passing information that was critical to the designs on to the engineers, which resulted in redesigns; and the environmental review group was refusing to reveal its review criteria to the engineers, which also resulted in redesigns.

Instead of using a questionnaire, the author went down the production line and stated the axiomatic statements to each of the 150 workers. Then, if there were negative responses, discussion was continued to understand the problem areas further.

This is an important finding because workers who do not care do not get upset. Once management realized that the workers really cared, steps were taken to correct the situation. These moves resulted not only in happier workers but greatly improved quality.

Many organizations have training programs. The interviews will reveal the training shortcomings. A modified program can then be implemented. In many organizations, worker training is haphazard, which causes serious quality problems and excess costs.

The training of professionals frequently requires that more use be made of the mentoring methods. A newer professional should be assigned to a senior person who by frequent contact gives the trainee “maturity.” By this process, trainee make fewer mistakes and proceeds more and more on their own as experience gained.

In addition to mentorship, being involved in the case examples above has had a profound effect on how I approach talking to workers and managers. I now frequently make axiomatic statements as a method of determining the health of the situation. Discussions with workers and managers are much more direct and constructive. This survey method can be quite a useful technique to add to your industrial engineering toolbox.