At Brightpoint Inc., (Plainfield, Ind.) associates and managers talk a good game. For the past 15 years or so, wide-open lines of communication among associates and company managers have been a primary motivator for the workforce.
“We believe that a big motivator is to be part of the decision-making process,” says Phil Sheingold, vice president, North American operations for the distributor of wireless devices. “We do brown-bag lunches where associates bring the lunch and questions, and management brings the soda and answers.”
The process doesn’t end when the table is cleaned. All of the questions and answers from the meeting are posted on a bulletin board. Quarterly, the same information goes out with all employees’ paychecks so everyone gets the benefit of others’ questions.
Brightpoint also has a financial rewards program. Sheingold says the program was not put together by managers sitting around talking among themselves.
“Every associate has, as part of his compensation, a bonus plan,” he says. “The bonus plan is derived from the company’s operating plan and people are rewarded for achieving goals not only within operations, but throughout the company as a whole.”
So that every employee knows how the company is doing, daily company metrics are posted. “In creating the plan,” Sheingold says, “we [managers] knew what had to be done for the company to be successful. We took our ideas to the associates and asked them how we could achieve those goals.”
Sheingold says the program is not cumbersome to administer because most of the data required is already available in the warehouse management program.
A growing challenge to incentive programs that are based on production rates is the age diversity of the workforce. In today’s workplace it’s not uncommon to have three or even four generations of workers doing the same job. Some employees see an additional bump to their paycheck as a way to buy more fishing tackle. Others see those dollars as a way to pay for new shoes for their children. When employees begin to view the incentive pay as an entitlement, the program is in trouble.
Sheingold says he has not seen much of a problem with multigenerational workers at Brightpoint. “We treat everyone around here the same,” he explains, “and the motivation of all jobs focuses on the company’s overall goals. Everyone is trained to a process rather than a specific job, which is how we’re able to move the workforce from place to place and get the same quality.”