What are the traits you look for when you hire new employees? If you’re like most people, you’re looking for employees that are intelligent, capable, problem solvers who take the initiative to get stuff done and do it well. It’s a shame that these same people who got hired for their mental faculties then so commonly get relegated to being a pawn in the corporate machine, with no autonomy or power to improve the business through their work.
In fact, some of the top reasons people leave their jobs are that they feel underutilized, aren’t given the opportunity to learn, grow, and improve, don’t feel that their work is meaningful, and are bored by their work.
This is one of the striking differences between regular companies and those that strive for a culture of continuous improvement. The foundation of an improvement culture is the employees, who are empowered to make daily improvements to their work that increase their own happiness, add value to the products and services provided to customers, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their work.
Employees in a culture of improvement are engaged in their work, know that their work is valued by their employer, and are invested in the success of the company.
Let’s take a look at the result of such engagement:
At the risk of stating the obvious, I’m going to start here. When you take the time to ask employees for ideas about how they could improve their work, their output, their job satisfaction, and your business in general, you’re setting the stage for a culture of daily continuous improvement. Of course, employees must be empowered to implement those ideas and recognized for their success - but once you’ve nailed all three of these elements, you’re going to have happier employees who are invested in their work and are more likely to stick around long-term.
Wider Range of Improvements
One of the benefits of having a diverse team of employees is that everyone notices different things, prioritizes different things, and has differing areas of creativity and skill. When you engage the entire company in improving from the bottom-up, you harness the creative potential of the organization. The result? More unique, impactful ideas than any team of improvement experts could have come up with on their own.
Happier Customers (Empowered Employees)
I think the absolute worst thing an employee could do would be to tell a customer that they can’t help them. Regardless of what the customer is asking, your employees need to feel empowered to apply creativity to problem-solving for customers. How do you empower employees to increase customer satisfaction? By making sure they know that they’re allowed - no, encouraged - to propose ideas for improving whatever issue the customer is experiencing.
Achieve Strategic Goals
While it’s common for organizations to set annual goals that are closely monitored by executives, it’s less common for those goals to be communicated down to front-line employees. Businesses that strive for a culture of continuous improvement, though, recognize that letting everyone in on the goals and empowering them to make improvements toward those ends is a powerful driver of meeting those goals.
For example, say you have a goal of increasing customer satisfaction from 87% to 96%. Engaging the people who actually interact with customers and drive that satisfaction number in coming up with ideas to improve that number gives you a much better shot at reaching the goal.
Improvement is Continuous
Organizations with a thriving improvement culture believe that every person in an organization has two jobs: to do their work and to improve it. While improvement events and large projects are necessary to tackle big issues, they’re time-consuming and resource intensive. On the other hand, bottom-up improvement gives smaller, continuous, long-term results that accumulate over time for a significant business impact.
What about you? What benefits has your organization seen from engaging front-line staff in bottom-up improvement? Leave a comment and tell us about it.