How to Engage Employees, Improve Productivity and Sustain Improvements Over the Long Haul
by Bernhard Opitz

     
   

There is an urgent need for every company in this global economy to improve its processes continuously. The ongoing strive to be better than everybody else and become better than oneself the day before, is at the core of survival. And the key to the success of the program lies in sustaining the gains from every step!

Step 1. Get Everyone Engaged

To sustain the results for your continuous improvement process, you must first engage all employees involved in the business. This should also include those contractors and suppliers you do business with for an extended period of time. Here's why:

  • By including the biggest number of people with insight in your business processes, you open the widest idea pool.

  • When every person impacted feels as if they are a driving part of the change, they are more likely to accept changes and new ideas.

Step 2: Visualize

To sustain success, you must visualize the process and the progress achieved for every person in the company. The visualization needs to be physically present for all managers, team leaders and employees as well. Everybody needs to see the rules of the program and the baseline, target, and ongoing progress for the key performance indicators (KPI).

Step 3: Use Realistic Optimism

Your company's business process key performance indicators need to be determined in a way that directly indicates how successful your improvement efforts are. Here's how…

  • Start with the baseline performance from the last one or two business periods.

  • Targets for the KPIs should be set with "realistic optimism" from your baseline data. They must pose challenging goals while not being out of reach.

  • Ongoing progress needs to be measured in a timely manner.

  • Representation of the KPIs should be given in graphics, not purely numerically.

When improvements are implemented, the KPIs will show the positive impact. They also will show the sustained achievement. Or if things fall back, it will give you early feedback so corrective actions can be started fast.

Step 4: Balance the Workload

As your company moves forward with the continuous improvement program, teams should be established for ongoing administration and support and for specific improvement projects. This means your employees will be responsible for additional tasks including completing the required training in the new processes and tools and collecting data for the control.

Your management team will need to acknowledge this additional workload. A certain amount of add-on work will be unavoidable to start the process. But it is urgent to introduce a way to free people for the work in the improvement process from the normal tasks of their jobs. Maintaining hours worked during a time of lower production or adding additional people to create dedicated improvement teams are ways to start a great program. The advancement of the improvement process will pay for the added labor costs fast.

Step 5: Celebrate Milestones and End Results

Build personnel engagement for the continuous improvement process by celebrating successes. Appreciation for progress made in all different layers of the improvement process must be shown in a timely way by management from the CEO to the direct supervisor and his or her peers of every team member.

Appreciation can be shown in many ways, from lunch or dinner invitations, gift certificates, or direct monetary rewards to the individually targeted public acknowledgement of the success or a special service provided to the employees. Rewards work best when every employee feels they are appropriate for the success achieved and when they fit the needs of the individual employee. One of the most effective appreciations for reaching a milestone was the personal effort of the team facilitator in washing every team member's car in front of the company building.

Your 3 Action Items for Success

To improve productivity and sustain improvements over the long haul your employees must drive the continuous improvement process and be at the core of sustaining it. In order to make effective strides forward your company must work to engage every employee in the process. So start performing these 3 action items for success today:

  1. Visualize the steps it will take to achieve results so that every person involved sees it every day.

  2. Make organizational adjustments to allow people the time to participate in the effort.

  3. Develop milestones and celebration schedule to show your company's appreciation for every successful step forward in a balanced way.

Bottom line: Think positively about it, put your best support forward for it, and feel part of it!

     
   
     
   

The Author

  Vice President of Manufacturing for Nanosphere, Inc., Bernhard Opitz builds high-performing, rapid-response engineering organizations by driving technology innovation and productivity improvement initiatives. Let Bernhard Opitz teach you how to exponentially grow your revenues organically by engaging your employees at your next leadership conference. To invite Bernhard to be your next keynote speaker, contact him at http://www.linkedin.com/pub/2/986/a19
     
   
     
   
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Copyright 2008 by
Bernhard Opitz. All rights reserved.

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