Managing Performance Can Be A Complex Issue
Managing performance in snow and ice management organizations (whether in on-site situations or multi location accounts) is a complex issue. It involves all of the components of productivity. In most organizations, people are hard working… or at least they believe they are. Announcements of productivity increases will most likely be interpreted by our people as a demand for the front line worker (specifically the sidewalk snow removal workers) to work harder. This is not true. We want them to work more effectively and be more accountable for the results of their efforts. This is true not only from the standpoint of the contractor – but also from the viewpoint of the customer.
People are, by nature, territorial. We tend to accept responsibility and be more accountable when our territory is defined. It is difficult for the worker(s) to mentally get their arms around their territory, zone, or responsibility because in snow and ice management the areas are so large – or are so removed from each other. It is also difficult for management to keep track of performance until everyone knows and understands the outline of the territory(s).
Sidewalk snow work is a ‘people intensive’ activity. Most payroll dollars go to production people as a percentage of the whole labor dollar outlay. The labor intensity of sidewalk snow removal has improved in the past, and the percentages may change in the future, but people power will be the heart of the business for years to come. The industry as a whole, has not been able to substantially reduce the man-hours per lineal foot of walk, even in the light of improved ice control materials, and more sophisticated, state-of-the-art equipment – without mechanizing the process. Even so, it is a proven fact that a man with a ‘snow-pusher’ is considerably more productive than a man with a snowblower in snowfalls of less than 8 inches in depth. No relief in the near future for the labor intensity of our industry is a frightening thought. The US Department of Labor has confirmed our fear that the pool of available workers is shrinking and will get even smaller in the future. The Industry will continue to experience more companies chasing fewer available workers – or, more accurately – less people willing to do this type of manual labor.