Newman's case study was so fascinating that I wanted to interview him and ask him more about his book and whether it applied to libraries, which often resembles a retail fast-food chain in terms of frenetic pace with customers and rigid tension between management and staff. Here is our interview:
Question: Libraries are every bit as dysfunctional as any organization. What can libraries learn from McJob? Is your book written for fastfood and retail only? Does it apply for all?
Newman: The book is relevant to any organization that has multiple shifts in the course of a day, or that has multiple units within the organization. I think libraries qualify on both accounts. The biggest problem in multi-unit operations, and this isn't just me speaking - mcd agrees with this - is the inconsistency across time and units. To be great, first you must be consistent. This isn't always "sexy", hence the reason for low interest.
Question: What can managers learn from your book? If there is one thing they can take away from your book, what would it be?
- Fast food jobs are HARD – both physically and mentally
- These jobs provide opportunity to learn important life skills
- Dealing with pressure situations
- Communicating with peers
- Managing conflict (with customers, peers)
- Fast food is more representative of our country’s diversity and makeup than other industries
- MOST INTERESTING: The store’s manager (and not corporate operations procedures and values) determines the climate and ultimately the success of the workplace
Question: What works? You had mentioned the four four R’s. What are they?Newman:
- Realism…People like predictability, set boundaries and expectations
- Recognition…Be an ego-architect – reinforce self worth
- Relationships…Build a social web, identify those employees that connect with others and use them to cultivate camaraderie among the troops
- Rewards…Gold stars still work
Question: What were some challenges you found?
Newman: How to reward your employees when money is not an option.
- Provide constructive feedback: Gold stars worked in elementary school, still work now
- Recognize job proficiency by make an example of a strong employee
- Offer flexible hours and job security
- Facilitate social interaction – build a social web, make the work-place a fun-place to be
- Advertise opportunities to advance
- Build positive manager/employee relationships
Question: What are some key takeaways from your research in this book?
- Hiring decisions are key to store success and employee retention
- Culture has the strongest impact on workers’ behavior – and managers are in control
- Camaraderie and strong work ethic are a winning combination
Question: Were there any surprises during the extent of your experiences?
- Fast food is not an easy job
- No forum for employee feedback and unsolicited feedback on operations/best practices is not welcome
- Wide disparities exist across stores – even those with the same name
- Women are better managers
- Recognition is a powerful motivator