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In this episode...
Why You Need Craftsmanship and Quality for a Happy Workforce
In recent decades, the trend toward consumerism has gained massive speed. This isn’t great for buyers, but what does it do to the mental health and well-being of employees? That’s covered this week on Episode 70 of Faithful on the Clock.
[00:05] - Intro
[00:33] - Consumerism has led to an influx of low-quality products.
[02:27] - It’s not your imagination — quality really isn’t what it was, and it likely has an influence on the worker.
[02:56] - Mass manufacturing has its place, but skill and craftsmanship go together. Kill the former and you kill the latter.
[03:26] - Reducing skillsets means workers end up with not a lot to feel great about. There’s little legacy, and people know they are more replaceable.
[05:17] - The skills related to craftsmanship are gifts from God. If we don’t keep craftsmanship in our operations, people don’t get a chance to know what kind of craftsman they were made to be. People have to understand that to really know they’re not replaceable, have influence, and stay motivated to work.
[07:08] - Recommendation #1: Become a niche supplier.
[08:16] - Recommendation #2: Invest in apprenticeships and mentorships.
[09:02] - Recommendation #3: Ask yourself what multi-generational value every process ties to.
[09:34] - Recommendation #4: Make friends with the enemy (collaborate to know what’s critical and get perspective).
[10:12] - Craftsmanship has real value. It’s worthwhile to support operational processes that let people discover and use those gifts to glorify God and feel satisfied.
[10:47] - Prayer
[11:31] - Outro/What’s coming up next
What’s coming up next:
Most companies think about how the business can support its employees. But what can the typical worker do to support their coworkers? Episode 71 of Faithful on the Clock provides some practical suggestions for encouraging others and lending a hand to those on your team.
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Well, hello again, everybody. I’m your host, Wanda Thibodeaux, and you’re listening to Faithful on the Clock, the show where every petal on the flower blossoms to get your faith and work aligned. In today’s episode, we’re talking about something near and dear to my heart, which is craftsmanship and quality. I’m gonna dive into why those two elements are so critical to employee mental health and success, so let’s buckle up and go.[:
All right, listeners. So to dive in here, what inspired this episode was an article in Vox that I came across by Izzie Ramirez. And in that article, Ramirez was basically laying out how the uptick in consumerism has led to this huge influx of, quite frankly, really poorly made stuff. And I got thinking about how wages and everything tie into this. So, you know, if the consumer isn’t making as much money, if they’re fighting inflation and all those other things, which of course, right now, they are, that really does influence how you buy. You either don’t buy high-end at all, or you try to get better stuff used, that kind of thing. And my family, you know, we were pretty poor, to be honest. So we looked for good used things a lot because we just couldn’t afford to keep replacing stuff and we couldn’t handle the prices of getting the good stuff brand new. And if something did break, my dad, he’d pull out these tools he’d had forever to do the job of fixing the item. And I still do that, even now. I remember when my husband and I first got married, we found a solid oak entertainment center. I think it was like $75 bucks, took three people to move into our place, and I’m pretty sure it was only there because it wouldn’t hold a big TV like everybody has today. But if we were looking for something like that new, I mean, it’d be hard to find, first of all, and if we did, it easily would be a few thousand dollars for this entertainment center. And of course, there are other trends that play in, too. We know, for example, that with remote and gig work becoming more of a thing, people aren’t staying in one place as long. So they’re also looking for things they can transport easily or just get rid of. So you can look at IKEA, and I’m not trying to bash them at all or anything, but they’ve kind of acknowledged how this kind of fast furniture trend has downsides, that it’s not environmentally sustainable right?[:
But the bottom line is that, you know, quality just isn’t what it was. That really isn’t your imagination if you’ve thought that. And I just thought to myself, this has to have an influence on the worker. It can’t be just on the consumer. And what I mean by this is, what’s the big thing now? And research studies back this up. Workers want work with purpose, right? They wanna do something with meaning. That’s why all the gurus are telling you, give your teams a why, explain how it matters.[:
Now, mass manufacturing, that has its place. But if you’re going to make something with longevity, that usually requires greater skill. If you’re not going to lean on pressboard to make some cheap shelves, you’ll have to pull in someone who’s a master woodworker, not someone who can get the hang of factory line machines in less than a week. You know what I’m saying? So, put another way, skill and craftsmanship go together. And if you eliminate the former, you also kill the latter.[:
Now, if you’ve reduced the skillsets necessary for someone to work, my personal view is that there’s not a ton for the worker to feel great about. They can’t look at the finished product and say, “Wow, you know, that wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t really used my brain and talent a little bit.” And all of a sudden, they know they’re more replaceable. That would be stressful enough. But a lot of the time, because product trends change so fast and aren’t constricted by manual, custom work anymore, workers also have to start running inside — I’d call them knowledge hamster wheels. As soon as one process or material gets sorted out, everything gets erased. There’s not a lot of consistency to anything. And the human brain, I mean, we like some variability, some novelty, right? But too much unpredictability all the time, that creates stress. And so I think all of this uncertainty can really stress workers out if they worry about their ability to adapt to shift. Then, on top of that, you can see consumers starting to gripe at workers more because the quality takes a dip. You know, all of these complaints get shoved in their faces. And these workers, they know a lot of the time that what they’re creating will literally end up in the trash. The products are just going to disintegrate and the knowledge that went into making them won’t even be relevant a few years down the road. And then of course you can have bosses who are telling workers to do all of this work faster with fewer resources so that competitors don’t grab market share, and it all ties to bonuses or potential layoffs and all that stuff. So, I mean, there’s really no solid sense of legacy at all. And so you do the math on mental health and motivation. I think it really does eat away at people.[:
So to get a little bit of the Christian tie-in here, I want you to think about Exodus 35 and 36. And we see there that the craftsmanship necessary to build the tabernacle, that was a gift of God. Chapter 36:2, for example, says, “And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the Lord had put skill.” And to tie that to the New Tesatment, you have verses like Romans 12: 3-8. That talks about how we all have different spiritual gifts. But what I want you to take away with both these verses is that God endows everybody with something. And when people are in a position in work where they cannot use those gifts, it really denies who they are and who God made them to be. Keeping craftsmanship in our work operations, seeing that as valuable, it really respects His original design that God had. You know, if you just mass manufacture everything, people don’t get the opportunity to understand what God has graced them with. They don’t get to figure out what kind of craftsman they’re meant to be. And I include spiritual gifts here because, I mean, think about all the situations where you might not have a physical product but you say, oh, there’s an art to that. That’s craftsmanship in its own way, where it takes specific skills to get the result you want, where you have to master those skills to come out ahead. So I think it’s absolutely critical that people understand that they are in the business because of the specific craftsmanship they can bring to the table. It’s critical that they know that that craftsmanship is not easily replaceable and that it’s going to have an influence that will last not just for a few months or years, but even for generations. That’s what’s going to keep them motivated to keep doing their job.[:
So then of course the logical question is, well, how do we get there? How can we change things so that craftsmanship and quality don’t disappear and really are part of your core values? And I have a couple of suggestions I’ve covered in my newsletter for LinkedIn that I’ll share with you. The first is, become a niche supplier. And this, I mean, you might not be able to make as many types of products this way, obviously, but if the products you do sell consistently outperform what’s available from competitors, you can corner the market on what you do make. Customers will come to rely on you for the expertise you bring to your items.[:
Secondly, think about the adjacent markets you could get into. A lot of the time, even if you’re not making a lot of different types of products, you can translate what you do make into different environments. I’ll point to NASA here as an example. A lot of what they developed for the consumer market came out of what they needed to make their missions successful. So you don’t necessarily have to make something different, you just have to get creative about where you could apply or adapt what you’ve got.[:
Then go ahead and invest in apprenticeships and mentorships. What these allow you to do is get the personnel who have a ton of experience connected to the workers who need to learn. And your more experienced personnel, they can train the next generation of craftsmen so that those skills and knowledge sets get passed down and preserved. And another reason why I really love this is that, when you’ve got generations working together, it helps smooth the transition between leadership, too. You know, the people who are coming up, they’ve been trained not only in the skills the business depends on, but on the values associated with those skills, too. So it keeps the business really stable and consistent over time. It’s absolutely fantastic for maintaining your brand.[:
Then take a look at your operational processes. And what you want to do is take every process and ask yourself what multi-generational value that process ties to. Because if you can’t tie it to a multi-generational value, how durable is it? And durability and craftsmanship, those tie together. And what this is gonna do is prevent your company from leaping too readily into trends, and to really think about which skills are necessary to continue the organization’s beliefs over the long haul.[:
My last tip for you is to make friends with the enemy. And all I mean here is to occasionally work together with other companies within your industry. You don’t have to give away your secret sauce or anything like that. But maybe partner where you can. You know, during the pandemic, we saw BiioNTech and Pfizer collaborating on research. That’s a good example. Or get some conferences pulled together or something like that. That’s gonna help everybody to understand what’s truly foundational to your sector and what’s not. People are gonna get a big-picture perspective about the tools and methods they can select from to become masters at their craft.[:
So that’s really the sum of it. Craftsmanship, you know, that has real value. And if our skills and talents are God-given, then I think it’s worthwhile to support operational processes that allow people not just to discover what those talents and gifts are, but to use them in such a way that the worker really feels like they’ve been able to do some good work for the Father through those gifts. I think that goes a long way when it comes to keeping people satisfied, and satisfied workers are the ones who are going to put in more effort, get more done, and ultimately, stick around.[:
So let’s just take a moment, bow your head or close your eyes, whatever feels comfortable for you, and I’ll pray for us.
Lord, scripture tells us that craftsmanship is a gift from you. So God, I pray that, even though we try to find ways to, you know, be efficient and all these other things, we don’t lose sight of the fact that those gifts are part of who we are. They’re something valuable to be expressed that can make a difference. And I pray, Lord, that you’ll move on the hearts of leaders in companies, on the hearts of workers, to be encouraged by the potential they have, and that they’ll tap the gifts you gave them to stay happy and well. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.[:
Well, I’ve gone and talked myself out. As I close here today, I’ll just offer a little challenge. Next time you’re looking for a job, just ask yourself if it’s a job where you really can be a good craftsman. And if you’re looking for a product, just ask yourself what went into it. And if you can, put your dollars behind what really has quality and skill behind it. Next episode, I’ll talk to you about simple ways to support your coworkers. We talk a lot about employers supporting employees, but a lot of help can happen on a horizontal level, and be honest, I think we all can use a little extra help from all directions, right? So join me for that in two weeks, and until then, be blessed.