Apparel industry has been working on incentive system since long considering the fact that it’s one of the proven methods for motivating the workers and for creating a climate of healthy competition within employees. However, the lack of transparency in incentive system can create major issues for the factory management and if any worker feels that the incentive which was awarded to him was unfair, then it can have negative effect as well on his enthusiasm and can reduce his productivity. So, it’s important to have a transparent incentive system within the organisation and emphasising on the same, Paul Collyer, a garment industry expert and specialist trainer with more than 37 years of experience, talks about what could be a better ‘transparent’ incentive system.
Incentives invariably increase output, motivation and immediate effectiveness of an operator. A case in point is the British Work study rating system, which proved that an incentive can improve operator effectiveness by 33%. Keeping Paul’s case aside, there are certain inviolable Absolute Rules of Incentives.
- Incentive must be fair and be seen to be fair.
- Incentive must be understandable by those they are applied to.
- Incentive must be able to easily relate effort and output to reward for those working in the scheme.
- Incentive must be transparent.
Incentives can be positive or negative. Irrespective of type, incentives are motivating factors for operators and thus have to be kept simple. Adair’s theory of leadership stated that 50% of motivation come from external sources- the leader! To be effective, any incentive scheme, however lucrative financially, must be accompanied by sound management and supervision with support systems. This was mostly applicable, in its simplest form to piece work – primarily for individuals, reflected as money for each garment or part garment completed or even standard minute (s) paid for each garment or part garment completed. These were easy to understand and made it easy to relate output to reward. These could be highly successful as a motivator.
- But this system was not without its disadvantages:
- Needed tight controls, adding significant management time and administrative effort.
- Put extra pressure on supervisors from operators, who, having finished early, demanded more work.
- Required control over quality, bundle, piece or batch reporting and booking.
- Required control over recording of ‘off-standard’ time.
- If not structured properly, only rewarded output and skills, thereby restricting any wish to progress to more difficult skilled tasks.
- Encouraged inflexibility.
- If money was used instead of standard minutes, need arose to modify each payment when salaries modified.
- Selection by default. Only those that could work within it survived.
Team or Group Incentive
- Use when desirable to encourage a team working ethic – ‘modular’
- Use when impossible to isolate the output of individuals.
- Operate by relating output of finished, ‘perfect’ garments to payment.
The advantages were that much less admin and management time was needed. It could encourage improvement in quality and operators were more likely to be cooperative and flexible. On the other hand, the disadvantages were that it was more difficult for individuals to relate their effort to reward, there was need to train to appreciate team ethics and greater effort was needed to set up.
Reward Skills: Alternatively, there could be payments by results. Direct payment per physical piece, or direct payment per piece in SMVs, which had to be converted into performance and related to a preset hourly rate paid. A bonus could be added, based on output above a present target; as a variation to the above theme, penalties could be imposed if the present target was not reached at desired quality levels. Managers could play with the conversion rate depending on the degree of difficulty of the jobs involved and obviously the higher skill level needed. Here, skill was both recognised and rewarded. This meant that skill levels were to be understood by the management and those operations having similar degrees of difficulty could be grouped or banded together. Banding work content was no mean task and could easily cause resentment. Hence, the process had to be transparent.
It was crucial that the infrastructure should be conducive to production and promote motivation. Incentive rules needed to be in writing and clarified whenever required. SMVs and SAMs were to be understood fully, as SMVs played a big role in calculating bonus as an incentive. An ambiguous or inaccurate SMV would soon see operators catching up with the weakness therein and then beating the system. They could create high artificial performances, thereby getting higher pay. Needless to say, there was requirement for intensive supervisor/manager training, effective operator training support and quality control system and finally, employee education.
The usual queries that require clarification
Can individual and group incentives be mixed?
Paul: Yes. It is important to ensure you do not convey the feeling of partiality. You need a system of checks and balances and random external monitoring.
Can you incentivise multi-styling and, when a section is switched from one style to another, how can you implement incentives?
Paul: The answer to both questions is yes. The solution is not easy because the question, to say the least, is very generic as there are millions of styles. At the same time, there will be common operations and a good operator will always remain a good operator. This question came up earlier in different words. As long as you have calculated your SMVs correctly, you are sure to trump. But, it again is your call.
With Eton and/or Switchtrack systems in use, how do you formulate incentives?
Paul: The overhead hanger systems not only take away a lot of work content but also WIP holding capability. The only way here is to have very sharp supervisors who can take rapid decisions. Moreover, WIP must be kept track of, even though it will be comparatively low.
Should dexterity tests be applied?
Paul: Complete the ‘pocket bag exercise’, if you can, otherwise there is no need. Use them sparingly, because you might end up losing a good operator. To ensure that you are setting the same parameters, read out the instructions every time. Rate them.
Would you advise learning by observation?
Paul: The trainer must be a ‘thought policeman’. Definitely allow learning by observing. Audio-visual is the best form of training. But be careful that you exercise due vigilance. The maximum limit of trainees you can let loose to observe live operators should be four. Ensure they do not pick up wrong habits. Remember, if trainees have not been taught to see, they will miss much of what happens if learning by observation alone.
How would you teach two exercises together?
Paul: Teach Ex-1 up to 60%. Send her into the line. Get her back periodically to teach her Ex-2. Test her on Ex-1 to ensure she has not forgotten anything. Also, do not try to teach her 4 exercises together.
What do you advocate if a new experienced chap gets a job?
Paul: Watch him at work. Start him at a higher point in the training process, then retrain him. It is difficult to break bad habits. Remember: Watch-Correct-Watch.
How long should you keep low performers?
Paul: Train them till they remain cost-effective. If they cope, good. Otherwise, ask then to leave.
How do you train multi-skilled workers?
Paul: Modify training programmes to use best practices. Build up a skill library in your set up and refer to it as required. Look at the operation in detail. Some exercises would be common and the training schedule should take that into account. Only then, move on to different skill sets.