Foreman of Lima

The plant in Lima, Ohio having problems with rising foreman turnover is a difficult problem to solve.  However, it is not difficult to see why it is a problem that they have.  The article paints the position of foreman as a position that no one would want to hold.  Foreman occupies a sort of odd middle ground.  The unionized workers below the foreman have better health benefits and less responsibility.  The supervisors above the foreman don’t have to deal with the day-to-day pressure of meeting production quotas and dealing with hourly laborer issues.

The real rub of the situation is that it is very difficult for foreman to try and get promoted to supervisor because the company likes to bring them in from the outside.  Also, many of the foreman hired before were not college educated.  The company has been moving away from promoting employees without college degrees to supervisors.  Because of this foreman cannot go up.  And, who would want to take a demotion and a pay cut to go down to the less pressurized job of the hourly laborer?  This puts foreman in a sort of no-win situation.  Many of the foreman at the Lima plant have probably realized this and that is why they are leaving.

The way I see it Treadway only has two options.  The first is to allow foreman without college degrees to somehow get the option to receive proper training and possible promotions.  They could do this by offering scholarship programs to foreman who wish to go back to college and earn a degree.  It would be expensive, but it would not cost as much as retraining half of your lower management every year due to low morale and high turnover.  The other action they could take would be to allow the turnover to continue and only hire college educated foreman as replacements.  This way they could insure that they always had a pool of qualified applicants to choose their supervisors out of.

If Treadway does not adopt one of these courses of action than I do not see how they can avoid these high levels of turnover.  They have created a system where there is very little incentive to be a foreman at their company.  The job is very demanding and there is little chance of advancement.  By remedying the latter of these problems I believe they can not only improve their talent pool, but also give their foremen the incentives to stay on longer.


1 Comment

  1. April 13, 2010 at 5:42 am

    I agree completely on what has been written. I would be really interested in where the Foremen are going and are they quitting or are they Fired or do they just not want to be supervisors anymore. Each will have a different solution.
    I believe in life long learning. Any individual that wants to learn should be supported as their value to a company will increase more than the cost of training. I also believe that the individual should share in all or part of the upfront costs in order to “own” their learning.

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