The late F. Kenneth Iverson—who navigated Nucor from a floundering company to a profitable business with international repute—managed to coax twice the labor per man-hour out of his workers than employees in larger steel manufacturers.
Though a Fortune 500 company, Nucor maintains a lean-and-mean labor pool and rewards productive employees with performance bonuses. To keep staffing at minimal levels requires a uniformly functioning unit wherein stakeholders are empowered to make decisions and assist each other by equally shouldering the weight. By design, Nucor managers are almost indistinguishable from the worker bees.
There is very little sense of hierarchy, and there is an across-the-board open-door policy on new ideas and access to company information. Nothing is hidden and there is no corporate gamesmanship. It has been said that a janitor at Nucor is only four promotions away from becoming the CEO.
We maintain a similar sensibility at Qualifirst. We do our best to hire employees who can and will rise within company. I don’t believe in titles either. I think it’s more important what people do, and even more important what their motivation is. Ask yourself of each employee, is he or she trying to contribute to the company or simply improve their position within it?
Many of our in-office workers start out in the warehouse—as I did myself—and when they transition, they already have a thorough working knowledge of our products, our customers, and our day-to-day operations. Working in the warehouse also gives management the opportunity to vet productivity and self-motivation levels. It’s easy for an employee to mask excess socializing as peer-to-peer support in an office environment. In the hands-on warehouse, however, that simply isn’t possible.
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