Attached to this document is our final report. This report is a HRM analysis on the case study: Cape Breton Wallcoverings. With exploratory research and analysis on the current issues, we have made recommendations on how to strengthen Cape Breton Wallcoverings operations, increase the efficiencies with HR concepts. The focus of this report is to analyze the information from the Case study, provided by the Arcadia University. However some additional research was made to establish effective recommendations.
Gathering research and information for this group report was challenging, since this is a case covered a business that both of the group members were largely unfamiliar with. Also additional challenges came from the fact that the case study covered old situation, from 1989 to 1990. This made the additional research especially challenging as many of the current figures were not comparable to the figures from that time. Also legal research suffered from this, as the laws have been updated regularly.
The AN Consulting Group has worked many hours to put this report together, and we sincerely hope that the quality and depth of the analysis answers to your expectations.
With all the issues related to the employees, HR knowledge is required for plant of this size. HR department / skilled HR personnel would have improved the process of recruitment, selection and training.
Now the company is facing a decision on whether to expand the plan or not. ANC consulting is trying to find the root of these problems, propose realistic recommendations on how to solve the critical issues and provides a tentative implementation plan in this analysis. Job Design Situation At Cape Breton Wall covering plant challenge was that only 5% of the employees had any previous work experience in the field. These included the senior management, 5 supervisors and 2 foreign experts. Other workers were hired from local labor market, and had little to none work experience in the industry. By year 1989 103 local workers had been hired.
Basically the Cape Breton wall coverings needed workers that had technical knowhow, office staff and warehouse workers. The plant had 5 departments and each of these needed workers. Some of the department such as purchasing, marketing & sales, Administration needed mainly office staff. These jobs were however fairly standardized and the Cape Breton had labor force available that could do the job. However design department and production department had needs that were fairly unique to the industry.
Job simplification and industrial engineering Cape Breton Wall coverings exercised job simplification while designed the jobs. Because of this the jobs were divided into clearly defined and specialized tasks. This was critical in this case as the labour was unskilled and needed a simplified work environment. However, the new machinery the plan had emphasised flexibility and smaller batch sizes than industry standard and thus required even higher skills for users than it was norm in the industry.
In the job design, the administrative work was given to the supervisors and managers, while the lower level employees had properly defined tasks to accomplish. Because of this the plant was successful in its start off. However, the job design could have been done even better, for instance if industrial engineering would have been included in higher scale. To achieve this, the Cape Breton Wall coverings could have analysed working methods, and established time standards to increase the efficiency of their work. With which, it could have been determined if there were there any elements that could have been changed or eliminated in order to reduce the time needed to complete each job. Altogether, just in time approach would have ensured the proper use of people and their skills to a higher degree.
Motivating potential The starter level jobs at cape Breton wall covering plant were repetitive in nature. These included trainee and assistant type of jobs in all departments, but especially in the production department. To increase the worker motivation, different options are available. One of these is job enlargement, where the different task would be added to the job so that the job wouldn’t be so repetitive. Second would be job enrichment where more duties and responsibility would be added to the job. However these options are not recommended for Cape Breton Case, because the employees are already under high pressure to perform well, and more duties / responsibility would have potentially negative effects.
Last option to increase motivation would be job rotation. With this the workers would be rotated between similar jobs to avoid repetitiveness. This would be a viable option if future for Cape Breton wall coverings, as it would potentially increase the motivation for workers, and it would give the workers more diversity in their skills and experiences. This would be potentially very valuable option, as the Batch type manufacturing process needs workers with high skills. Also group based job designs and human factors in the job design could be worth investing in a future when the workforce has learned their trade.
Job Analysis To get specific data on what the job actually is, a job analysis needs to be conducted. This would have required objective research on the jobs to be made and with this data the job design could have been adjusted to be more realistic. A good job design would have covered the tasks to be done, how the job would be done, under what conditions it would be done, and the required KSA’s.
The case study suggests that Cape Breton Wall covering hadn’t done any formal job analysis before designing the jobs. If the formal job analysis would have been done a multiple issues could have been avoided. For instance a formal job analysis would have shown that the local labor force was very unskilled in wall covering technology and processes, and couldn’t possibly learn the new trade fast enough for the plant to be productive during its early years. After all, the standard gravure printer took 6 years apprenticeship to be skilled at his work; Cape Breton workers got only 6-months on the job training. This knowledge could have affected the decision on whether to build the plant at all to Cape Breton.
Secondly good job analysis could have brought forth the need to have HR knowledge or experience for the supervisors to avoid many legal and HR issues. Recruitment Workers One of the reason why the plant was set up in Cape Breton was availability of workforce, as the unemployment rate in Nova Scotia was 20.7%. However, even though there was availability of plentiful cheap labour force, people were not qualified enough to work for Cape Breton Wall coverings.
To conduct the job successfully and according to job design, the employees had to operate the latest technology machinery, which required high technical knowledge; something the cheap labour force did not possess. Since Cape Breton Wall coverings was the first ever wall covering plant to be established in the Atlantic Provinces, the labour available also had no previous wall covering experience. Even the recruitment phase in the plant’s start up was conducted so fast that the purpose of it was not solved at all, and the company ended up in hiring the completely unskilled and inexperienced workers.
Supervisors To supervise the entry level workers in production department, the Breton Wall covering hired 5 supervisors. These were brought to company from outside of Cape Breton and they were highly experienced in the job. These supervisors were to be models or couches for the workers. Because it is expensive to transfer qualified workforce for the area, the Cape Breton wall covering opted to transfer only 5.
However there are several issues in this. Firstly even the supervisors had no knowledge on how to use the new machinery the company had provided the plant with. Secondly the supervisors had no HR training or experience. Thirdly bringing outsiders to supervise the low skilled workforce is practically ideal for creating negative “us versus them” mentality among the workers. This can lead to resentment, or causing difficulty in communication. For instance the workers might feel that “the outsiders are getting the best opportunities and resent them for it. Or they feel that they cannot trust their supervisors and will not communicate their issues or even the issues in work for the supervisors.
Also there is an issue for having only 5 skilled and experienced supervisors to teach the 70 or so workers to do something they have never done before. The skilled worker / unskilled worker ration is very low, which can cause the supervisors to overextend themselves or give way too little attention to the workers that need it. This leads to low learning, and thus to mistakes and low productivity. Selection: The main motive of selection is to find the best fit candidate for the job.
This deserving candidate is someone who possesses the right knowledge, skills and abilities to perform as expected and work towards efficiency of the organization by working to achieve the strategic goals of the organization. As Cape Breton Wallcoverings was the first wall covering to be located in the area, it was essential for them to implement effective hiring system in order to hire the best fit candidates. The case didn’t specify how the selection was done, but a proper selection process includes initial screening, testing, and reference checking. As Only 60 out of 550 applicants were selected for the job, it suggests that such methods were in place. However there are two concerns for the selection process.
Firstly, the fact that all the hired employees very young, between the ages of 20 to 30 years old, suggest that there was indirect discrimination happening in the selection process. It seems that the company noticed that it couldn’t find enough of qualified labour, so it decided to get the best candidates for fast learning and thus decided to hire only young workers with potentially high learning curve.
As this is human rights violation again protected group, the company could be in trouble. Especially in no formal documentation has been made over the selection process. Secondly, even after the selection process was done, the candidates selected were not familiar with the printing craft. This clearly points the poor location planning decisions. Because of the lack of qualified labour, the company had to implement costly intensive training to almost every employee.
After the employees were selected and recruited, they should have been subjected to an orientation. Unfortunately, as in many organisations, there was no formal orientation provided to the employees of Cape Breton Wallcoverings. If provided, it would have given the employees information industry and the job for which they were hired. It would have given them a chance to familiarize with fellow employees, rules, policies and practices so that they would have been working right from the start according to the organizational expectations. By understanding the strategic values of their job employees would have developed task identity, which would have increased their motivation to perform better resulting in increased productivity and lower training costs.
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