These first two weeks with our first employee have been a fascinating experience for us. John has picked up the job much faster than we anticipated. He’s getting more work done more accurately and in less time than we could have ever predicted.
Now, a good portion of that is because he’s a very hard working, intelligent kid. I think we realize that not every employee is going to pick things up quite as fast as he has.
But the other portion of that, the part that we have more control over, is how well I think we set him up for success. All of the efficiency improvements over the past year that we’ve made have not only helped save us time and increased our accuracy, they’ve also made it so that our employees naturally have less room for error.
Consider the process of pulling an order, now vs last year:
- Invoices used to print out sorted by date, but FedEx labels will only print out in ABC order. Previously, we had to alphabetize the invoices to match the two before pulling orders. Now they both come out in ABC order and the two piles match exactly. When you go to pull an order, you simply take the top slip off of each pile and get to it.
- With a few recent improvements to our algorithm, we’ve got our box size system accurately picking boxes well over 90% of the time. The box prints on the bottom of the invoice so all you need to do is pick up a pre-made box of your choice and you’re off.
- The recent layout revamp makes pulling the products a piece of cake. They are ordered on the invoice in the order in which they are organized in the warehouse, with the most popular products on the easiest shelves to reach.
- Our packing area used to just be a cluster of tables where people checked and packed orders. With the current assembly-line-like setup (expanded a bit since that post) packages flow smoothly from puller to checker to packer to the door where they wait for FedEx.
The cumulative impact of all of these improvements has enabled him to learn way faster and work way faster than any of us thought. And remember, he’s only worked around 30 hours total in the two weeks he’s been with us. Now we’re thinking we may be able to triple or quadruple in size by just adding one full time employee and keeping one part time one. Previously, we could speculate, but now I think we have a pretty good understanding of how simple it is to train an employee within our system.
I think the grander lesson is how important it is to put your employees in positions where they can succeed. The more foolproof you make your systems, the easier it will be for them to hit the ground running. Not only that, they won’t need to spend time worrying about all of the same problems that you did because you’ve eliminated them. All of which leads to exponentially increasing the chance that they do their job effectively and efficiently. And at the end of the day, you need that from your employees. If they can’t do it at least as fast as you can, you’ve failed – either in hiring someone with the wrong skillset or in putting them in a position that makes it difficult for them to succeed.