Small rewards for workers go a long way

Meet Khalid Mahmud, factory manager for National Foods, Pakistan’s largest maker of spices and pickles. He has a few things to teach us about reward and recognition. Companies across Pakistan’s industrial heartland are struggling to cope with rising insecurity, incessant power outages and government corruption and inefficiency. But, even with these obstacles, a few top managers know how to drive a winning attitude. Demand for electricity in Pakistan is three times supply. Companies are piecing together a mix of power they get from the grid, and what they can generate using gas and diesel generators. Many factory floor, office and bathroom lights are kept off to compensate at National Foods.

Karachi’s residents have taken to the streets this summer, burning tires and disrupting traffic to protest outages lasting days at a time. “In the morning I assess my workers,” says Sajjad Farooqi, who supervises National Foods’ weighing department. “If I find someone is stressed out because he hasn’t slept all night without electricity or that inflationary pressures are causing strain in his family, I have to change his shift and give him easier work.” Inflation averaged 15.5 percent over the last three years because of rising food and energy prices as well as record government borrowing.

National Foods tries to attend to its workers’ cultural and economic needs. A subsidized canteen sells a meal of curry and flatbread for as little as 25 rupees, while a prayer room accommodates 200. Separate working areas exist for women, an unusual perk in a Pakistani factory. Adult literacy classes are available.

“We have to provide workers with incentives because they are facing a lot of pressures,” says Khalid Mahmud, who oversees 175 workers in the pickling operation. “Every month I give my most productive worker two t-shirts, 1,000 rupees and take them to dinner. These prize winners are then keen to help us out when less workers show up and we need to meet production targets.”

When the demands are high on your staff, take a lesson from Mahmud and think about the small rewards that ensure they know you appreciate their hard work.

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photo by maggiemuddphotography

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