Whatever else may be said about the essential benefits from effective employee engagement and alignment, few are more compelling than the value of systematic continuous improvement. While it’s hard to argue with that premise, most organizational improvement efforts are generally a one-off activity built on a ponderous review and approval process that produces sporadic input. A far cry from anything that’s remotely systematic or continuous.
What do you expect?
The problem is pretty basic. It boils down to expectations and opportunities. If you ask most employees what their supervisors expect them to do, the general answer would be something like, “Doing my job in the right way at the right time.” Rarely would you hear someone say, “Finding new ways all the time to do work better and improve the company’s performance.” Bottom line, job one is job done in most places.
So let’s say a supervisor actually did express a convincing expectation for continuous improvement. Then you have to ask how much of an opportunity do employees have to take action on it. If the expectation isn’t supported by systemic policies and procedures, the likelihood that employees are going to get fully engaged is slim and none.
Companies like Google have gained notoriety in recent years for their “20% policy” – basically giving employees the opportunity to devote 20% of their work time – one day a week – to personal development or projects not directly related to their jobs. While the principle is admirable, it’s not practical for most organizations to give up that much productive employee time. (Even Google has pulled back recently from that policy.) The good news is, you don’t have to go that far to spark and support continuous improvement efforts.
Opportunity is knocking.
With far less time than 8 hours a week, both the expectation and the opportunity for continuous improvement can be given to every employee by applying the following principles and practices:
- Encourage small ideas that everyone can contribute and manage
- Focus employee improvement efforts mainly within their own sphere of knowledge and control
- Give employees reasonable time away from their main jobs to work on improvements
- Have employees own their ideas and get support where needed to get implemented
- Hold team huddles 1-2 times per week for 15-20 minutes to introduce and discuss new ideas
- Celebrate and acknowledge people publicly for their contribution
- Share implemented improvements across the organization for potential replication
It comes down to making improvement a systematic process. Like I say every chance I get, you need an intentional habit for continuous improvement to break the default habit of doing things over and over again the same way. With clear expectations and systematic opportunities, you can generate tremendous energy for continuous improvement that produces remarkable results for your business and a vibrant workplace for your team.
Watch this video to learn more about our approach to helping organizations align marketing communications and employee engagement. For more information, send us an e-mail or call us today at 314-664-6497.
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