Not so very long ago at American manufacturing, fabricating and assembling facilities, when a part failed to function properly, the normal action was to repair or to refurbish the part back to working order and then to return the part to active status.

It was the right thing to do because production, assembly line, and other input/outgo types of businesses were prepared to repair most parts when needed. Typically there was a dedicated department at these facilities with the personnel and tools to perform the necessary repairs in a reasonable time. If a long repair time was required almost always there was a substitute part that was put into action as a temporary replacement. When the broken part was repaired, it would be reinstalled or shelved and labelled as the new substitute part.

Now decades later as productivity demands have increased significantly and prices continue to be forced downward, production and manufacturing on-site facilities, such as a repair department, have been eliminated to help reduce costs. Consequently almost without exception, now the preferred choice is to replace the broken part with a new one. The price of the part may be high, but if the company is without an internal department and skilled employees to make the repairs, the higher cost to replace the part may be the only sensible choice. So throwing out the old part and replacing it with a new one is the current “right thing” to do – at least from a financial perspective!

However parts and tools are not the only assets on the production floor and assembly line. The real people who constitute the skilled Manpower are assets as well. So what does one do if a skilled human asset is broken?

Time was when a Manpower asset was not performing to standard, the asset could be replaced or reassigned. That was the “right thing” to do for all concerned.

Also back then, it was easy enough to dismiss a poor performer in a merit shop. It was easy enough to place a “Help Wanted” ad in the local newspapers and to expect that qualified applicants would reply.

On the other hand, back then and now it is much more difficult to dismiss a poor performer in a collective bargaining environment. Reassigning a poor performer in a union shop may be the only choice. Sometimes even that choice is not possible.

Today it’s not so easy to place a “Help Wanted” ad and to expect qualified candidates to reply. While the Internet employee talent search companies are doing more to screen and to eliminate unqualified applicants, businesses still can expect to receive a greater number of unqualified applicants compared to qualified applicants.

Furthermore, it is not unusual for a large companies to invest several thousands of dollars in a search for qualified applicants using professional search firms. On the other hand, some larger companies may have a department with a staff of people dedicated to hiring.

Additionally, after investing the money for the search and then finding and hiring a qualified person, the cost of the replacement continues during the learning curve. Newly hired employees–no matter how talented and capable–will have to learn the ways, policies, and habits of the new company.

At the same time, they will have to be “unlearning” old ways and habits. There is a natural resistance to changing ways and habits, but they can be overcome.

What’s the message? The best choice today for fixing malfunctioning or poor performing Manpower Assets is to Repair them rather than Replace them whenever you can.

How does one repair a Human Resource or person? Training, coaching, mentoring, and improving communication and listening skills are necessary.

Focusing on company or department team objectives rather than individual improvement is the best approach. Individuals will discover quickly if they are being singled out for performance improvements. Generally when an individual feels singled out, the chance of making the necessary improvements is minimal. If the department or the entire company is involved, then that person or those persons are not as likely to feel targeted.

So while the better choice for broken machinery parts may be to replace them, the best choice for human assets is to repair them by training, coaching, mentoring, and improving performance rather than replacing them. After all, hiring new employees is one of, if not the most difficult task for business leaders and managers.

My message is simple: Train what you have and avoid the pain.

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