Pumpkin Patch – Getting the Most Out of Your Employees image


Pumpkin Patch – Getting the Most Out of Your Employees

Written by Erica Bassford, Engagement Leader at LI Europe.

I’ve carved pumpkins before but, this year, we went one step further, we ventured to the pumpkin fields to select our specimens.

Armed with wheelbarrow, accompanied by two children decked out in wellies, off we went. I had in mind the perfect pumpkin, you know the one, not too large, swelling nicely in the middle with a perfect orange glow. Clearly my children had different ideas, my youngest set out to find not only the largest pumpkin in the field but also the smallest. My eldest was more concerned about the pumpkin retaining a decent sized stalk and with no blemishes to the skin.

Some 30 minutes later we were armed with the 3 chosen delights and headed to the cleaning station. I am pleased to say, the child that then proceeded to face plant into the mud was not one of mine. A little t.l.c. and the promise of a hot chocolate seemed to refocus him to his efforts of pumpkin cleaning but alerted my two to the proximity of a café serving of hot chocolate!

Payment made, hot chocolate consumed, we were ready for home and to start the challenge in earnest.

Taking into account the shape of each specimen we negotiated, and agreed, the pattern for each pumpkin. We prepared a template to follow, the children traced out the template which they then followed with their cutting tools. Two hours later their toils were rewarded with three half decent pumpkins carved and ready to display.

Why am I drivelling on about pumpkins? For me the pumpkin field resembled a business and its employees. Not that I am implying your employees are swelling nicely in the middle with a perfect orange glow. More the fact that each one is different, with their own strengths, and so needs to be treated differently. For example, the larger pumpkin was tall but less round, making it a perfect shape for carving a rearing unicorn. Identifying the strengths in your team and optimising their use can deliver great results.

Motivational techniques need to be adapted for each individual. The offer of a hot chocolate worked for the mud coated child but not everyone is motivated by the same things. You need to differentiate.

To get success my children had a template, a plan to follow. Each employee needs an individual ‘template’ a development plan to achieve their potential. They need to contribute to that development plan, just as my children did when choosing their pattern, it mustn’t be imposed.

When recruiting, what we each look for in an employee is also different, just like my children wanted different things from their pumpkin. All too often I see managers recruit in their own image. Involving others in the recruitment process can provide different perspectives to help avoid this.

Using the right management tools, even the weakest member of your team can deliver great results.

Want to develop your team further? Keen to enhance your management skills? Why not get in touch.


Over the past three months I have been concentrating mainly on changeover reduction, waste reduction and increased throughput. There has also been a challenge to behavioural patterns. All of these efforts have been using the knowledge that you gave me and I am delighted to say that all have been successful, culminating in increased throughput, less waste and an increase in OEE from an average of 78% to around 90%. There has also been a marked improvement with people issues.

Alwin Waterhouse, Improvement Manager, British Bakeries

It’s been running so well, we could do a crossword!