It's hard to believe that the first half of 2020 is in the books. Just kidding. I don't blame you if you feel like there's been 10 years worth of news in the last six months. It's been intense. COVID-19 has impacted every American to varying degrees and much has changed about the way we live and work.
This year, more than ever, it makes sense to do a mid-year check-in with every employee. Despite the challenging situation, continuous improvement driven by every team member is still essential.
By asking the right questions, you might uncover ways that leaders can provide better support for staff members trying to make the best out of difficult circumstances. Here are a few we recommend.
Of the opportunities for improvement that you've submitted, which makes you the most excited and why?
This question provides insight into what is important to the employee. They can talk about opportunities that were implemented or ones that have yet to be assessed. By framing the question this way, you reinforce that improvement work is something to get excited about.
So far this year, have you had an idea for change that you did not submit? If so, why?
The purpose of this question is not to blame the employee for not engaging; instead, it is to determine if there are any barriers to participation. Perhaps the employee was quick to self-edit and dismissed the idea before it was assessed. Maybe they didn't have access to your improvement management platform at the right time. Whatever the case, knowing about the obstacle is better than the alternative.
Which improvement implemented this year has had the most significant impact on your role?
Whether the employee submitted the idea or not, it's useful to understand what types of improvements are making a difference to process operators. It may be possible to spread the concept to other functions or start another improvement cycle to make the change even more effective.
Do you have the resources to do your best work?
This question is especially important for employees who suddenly transitioned to remote work due to the pandemic. Now that some time has passed, they may realize that additional equipment or software tools would be helpful. Even for those whose work environment hasn't changed, this is an excellent discussion that will probably reveal opportunities for improvement.
Who has been supportive in your efforts to implement and sustain improvement?
You want to identify and recognize people who have a positive impact on their co-workers, and you also want to encourage employees to be grateful for each other. It will also be critical to know if the answer is no one.
Are there improvement tools, techniques, or technologies that you'd like to learn more about?
Why not let your team drive the learning path? Maybe formal training is needed, or perhaps employees who would like to learn more about a particular improvement methodology can be paired with a skilled practitioner.
What challenges or barriers do you face related to continuous improvement?
Sometimes we focus so much on implementing process improvements that we fail to access the process of improvement. Explore potential issues such as uncooperative co-workers, communication challenges, lack of inspiration, and resource limitations.
What, if anything, do you plan to change about how you engage in improvement during the rest of the year?
If you have a fully engaged employee who is having a positive impact, "nothing" is a good answer. On the other hand, this is a good chance for less active team members to self-reflect. You can guide them toward the steps they need to take to step up to the task.
What can I do to support you better over the next six months?
If your employee is reluctant to answer this question or says that there is nothing you should change, you might get them talking more freely by mirroring what they've said during the previous discussion. You might say, "From what you've said, it sounds like it would be helpful for me to …." Once they confirm or modify your statement, they might be willing to open up a little more.
What did I not ask you about that I should have?
I love this question because it shows humility, and you don't know what you don't know. You may be surprised by what your team members want you to know.
By doing a mid-year CI check-in, you'll reinforce the importance of improvement in the organization's culture. You'll probably find opportunities for improvement, and you'll give your team the chance to say what's on their mind.