We’re always talking about recognizing and rewarding employees for engaging in continuous improvement, and constantly run up against the common misconception that such reward should be financial. We know that financial rewards don’t work for many reasons - including that in that kind of culture, people only want to submit “million dollar ideas,” rather than capture daily continuous improvement, and a decline in collaboration to avoid conflict over who deserves the reward. As such, we suggest rewarding employees in non-financial ways - one of the most effective ways being public recognition for their work. This not only rewards people for getting involved in continuous improvement, but also encourages more people to come forward with their own improvement ideas.
One fun way to recognize and reward your employees is to have an award ceremony in which you celebrate the improvements themselves, rather than an individual. Of course you can give a shout out to the teams who captured and implemented the improvements, but celebrating the ideas themselves will promote a collaborative culture of continuous improvement.
Here are 8 ideas for continuous improvement awards to hand out in your next big meeting:
The Big Bang
Some improvement ideas have a huge impact, and they should be celebrated! Continuous improvement plays an important role in every aspect of business operations from safety and quality to the bottom line. When a big hitting idea comes to fruition, the person (or team!) who identified and implemented it should get some public recognition for their efforts.
It’s not just the “million dollar ideas” that should be recognized. Small, low-cost, low-risk ideas with small impacts are hugely important to a thriving culture of continuous improvement. Those little improvements come together for a significant total impact! To drive the point that little ideas the building blocks of daily improvement, celebrate the idea with the smallest impact with as much gusto as the one with the biggest impact.
The Melting Pot
Cross functional collaboration on continuous improvement brings diverse perspectives together to solve problems and improve processes. Working together in teams like this gets the creative juices flowing, and helps everyone feel more connected and engaged in continuous improvement. So, celebrate the idea that united the most diverse team! They worked hard to work together (hopefully they had continuous improvement software to help). Show them that you appreciate their work.
This is my favorite category. Employees generally apply continuous improvement principles to their own work, in an effort to improve their process, output, or job satisfaction. What’s awesome to see is when someone’s personal project turns out to have a much wider reach than initially anticipated as people from across the organization discover that it applies to their own work as well. Celebrate an idea that caught on like wildfire!
The About Dang Time
We all have problems we navigate around every day, or quietly grumble about with our coworkers. Eventually, someone will take the initiative and solve them. Celebrate the most anticipated improvement, and inspire people to step up and solve other persistent problems!
The Homer Simpson
We’ve been using Dropbox to share files for years, but have always struggled with creating conflicting copies. We’ve been using Google Drive for the last year to work on collaborative documents (because it updates in real time, there are no conflicting copies). It occurred to someone recently that we should keep all of our files in Google Drive… d’oh. Celebrate the improvements that became painfully obvious only after someone pointed them out.
When someone captures an opportunity for improvement, they likely have some idea of what the impact is going to be - maybe changing a step in their process makes the work a little safer, or more pleasant. Sometimes, these ideas impact other areas, too - maybe an idea that increases safety also turns out to increase efficiency and revenue. Celebrate an improvement that was targeted to benefit one area, and ended up improving more!
We always tell people to implement low-cost, low-risk improvements, so that they can make more daily improvement without getting hung up in bureaucratic or financial quagmires. It’s helpful in adhering to these guidelines when people are resourceful enough to fix things using what they already have on hand. Bonus points if it includes a swiss army knife or duct tape.
For more information about engaging employees in continuous improvement, check out this free eBook!