How do you engage employees in continuous improvement initiatives?
What does it mean to have an engaged employee in your continuous improvement process? It means that an employee has confidence in the organization’s process, understands how he or she can participate on a regular basis and takes concrete actions to contribute.
Several factors have an impact on an employee’s intention to participate or not in a continuous improvement process. In real life, it is not uncommon to hear the following phrases:
“I’m tired of hearing about performance.”
“I work hard, I don’t want to hear about waste”
“Quality? There are almost never any mistakes when we deliver something… we are professionals”
“Standard? Every project is different, it’s not possible to set standards.”
“Analysis? We are always analyzing, that’s not new.”
We understand you, these reactions can discourage many people. Don’t panic! In this article, you will discover three new strategies to renew the commitment of your teams to participate in the continuous improvement of your organization.
Demonstrate the value of continuous improvement
At Bambou Space, we believe that it is essential to communicate the value of continuous improvement in a simple and concrete way.
The value = what is important for an individual, a team or a company.
Continuous improvmentprocesses are interesting because they allow leaders and teams in a company to achieve several priorities. It is like a lever that allows you to complete your priorities and solve problematic situations.
Next step, it will be important to share with employees:
- How does continuous improvement relate to our priorities?
- Why are continuous improvement projects differentsfrom other projects?
- What are continuous improvement projects not?
Employees need to understand how continuous improvement will help us. It helps who do what and what the benefits will be.. And the answer will be different from company to company. Here are some concrete examples:
|Background||Priority||Example of link to continuous improvement|
|City||Implement sustainable development initiatives||– Reviewcross-functional processesto identify sources of waste|
|Investment company||Simplify work to free up time for new activities||– Use VSMto understand how information flows between IT systems
– Use visual management tools to understand bottlenecks in the operational chain
|Mature manufacturing company||Ensure knowledge retention and knowledge transfer||Documentation of work processes and procedures using Digital 5S principles
Training new employees using the One-Point Lesson method
Yet, during our client projects, we noticed that continuous improvement teams used to talk a lot about WHAT. In other words, what is continuous improvement and what are the tools. They talk about process mapping, kanban, 5S, Poka-Yoke, A3 sheet… Unfortunately, it is difficult to create commitment with teams by only talking about the what.
Conversely, few continuous improvement experts explain well WHY it is important and what are the reflexes or consequences if the continuous improvement approach is not used. Get to your paper and pencils!
Find the right words and images
At Bambou Space, we believe that we must improve our ability to communicate and therefore, find the right words or images to engage employees in the continuous improvement process.
Continuous improvement originated in the manufacturing sector and brings with it a series of images that are difficult to translate to other sectors. With the advent of telecommuting, digital tools, it may seem even more difficult to promote continuous improvement approaches in 2022.
The right words mean:
- choosing good examples
- avoiding the use of overused words, buzzwords
- clarifying words that do not have a precise meaning, such as words that come from another language
- use words that encourage action
As they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, so what are the images that are circulating today to talk about continuous improvement? Have they been renewed? Do they reflect the message you want to share?
Because you’re probably curious, here are some examples:
- Instead of talking about “reducing waste,” why not talk about “maximizing value for employees and customers?”
- Instead of talking about “improving performance”, why not promote “making work easier”?
- The next time you use the word “process”, make sure your listeners understand the difference between “process” and “procedure”.
- Is SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies) really a continuous improvement tool that has a place in the service industry
Beware! Our goal is not to water down the approach, but rather to find the right benchmarks that fit well with your work environment.
Play your joker
The joker is a card that allows you to replace any card in your deck. It’s often the wild card. It is a surprise element that few people use. In other words, what’s the trick to getting anyone interested in continuous improvement?
The answer: Satisfy the desire to learn and develop skills.
All humans have a desire to develop skills, learn and overcome obstacles. It’s one of the innate and necessary needs for job satisfaction. And I hear you say, yes…we know about green belt, yellow belt and black belt. Good for you. And that’s often how we create interest for continuous improvement in companies.
At Bambou Space, we have taken our thinking a step further:
- Can we experiment with continuous improvement principles rather than teach them?
- Can we learn as a team versus individually?
- What if it was fun to learn about continuous improvement?
Our solution: simulate a process before and after the introduction of continuous improvement principles. A one-day team exercise that leaves no one indifferent and demonstrates the benefits of continuous improvement!
Interested? Contact us. It will be our pleasure to share with you how to present the value of continuous improvement to your teams, to find the right words and to develop the skills within your team.