Have you started 2017 struggling to get your staff involved in process improvement initiatives? If so, you’re not alone. Businesses in virtually every industry wrestle with how to engage teams in efforts to improve business processes and then, once they do get them involved, how to sustain the momentum.
The good news is that employees in small to medium-sized businesses are more likely to have a voice in process improvement where there is less hierarchy and often a culture of taking measured risk.
Here are ten tips for engaging teams – and getting them excited about driving process improvement:
1. Communication. Establishing a plan for communicating your process improvement initiatives is essential for keeping them top-of-mind with staff. Using a variety of vehicles, from emails to newsletter articles to lunchroom posters, will help in maintaining consistent communications. Some companies have even created role plays (or gone so far as to make a video/animation) to demonstrate the benefits of easy-to-follow processes for both their staff and customers.
It’s also important to share the communications workload so it’s easier to manage. One way to do this is by finding process improvement champions who are willing to take turns sharing a “Tip of the Week” with users.
2. Recognition. To maintain interest among users, it’s important to give recognition where recognition is due. That can mean instituting easy-to-run recognitions like the user of the month, the most innovative improvement suggestion, or the process of the week. Some companies have set up a Heroes (top users) and Villains (infrequent users) leaderboard, while others do regular announcements of their new Certified Process Champions to the rest of the organisation.
3. Employee Training. Ensuring workers have proper training, ongoing support, and the resources they need to get involved with continuous improvement initiatives is vital. Training staff as part of new hire induction helps to ensure your expectations around process management disciplines and, in turn, their expectations are clear. For ongoing support, some businesses hold drop-in sessions during which users can have their questions answered by a process champion.
4. Fun. Recognising staff engagement in process improvement can be difficult to maintain, many companies have appealed to people’s competitive instincts by holding competitions, both within teams and across the entire organisation. Some businesses have even created games — process sprints or virtual scavenger hunts with clues hidden within processes — to make process improvement fun.
5. Leadership. There is a lot to be said for senior management buy-in, but you also need bulldogs on the ground to lead the charge for process improvement. With that in mind, it is important not just to involve the organisation’s leadership team in process improvement communications, but to make sure their support is visible to the entire operation. It also helps to build up a strong champion or super-user network so momentum can be maintained in all areas of the business.
6. Collaboration. Process improvement is a team effort so it is essential to let everyone know “we’re in this together.” With that in mind, businesses might consider holding one or more process improvement brainstorming sessions to get teams thinking outside the box about process improvement. These sessions can also serve as an opportunity to work through process pain points together in order to jointly come up with the best improvement ideas.
7. Daily Integration. Embedding process information into daily activities and other business systems (i.e. the company intranet) will drive employee engagement. To that end, some businesses are hosting essential documents everyone needs to access only in their business process management tool to drive usage. Other organisations tie process into personal and team performance outcomes/expectations including KPIs, job descriptions, and personal development programs.
8. Accountability. Giving staff the autonomy and resources needed to map, review, and ultimately own their own processes and improvement ideas will have a major impact on process engagement. To empower staff to be accountable, many organisations have set up a dedicated time slot for completing process related tasks. Some businesses also provide guidelines for dealing with feedback/improvement suggestions including suggested response times.
9. Room for Improvement. To maintain engagement with process improvement initiatives, it is essential for organisations to recognise the work will never be done. They must always be open to listening to users’ suggestions and concerns. And if no one is talking about process improvement, ask. Businesses should consider conducting their own engagement survey, with action plans driven by the results.
10. Bribery. Let’s face it — everyone is susceptible to a little bribery. If all else fails, a small incentive may be all it takes to drive motivation and participation. To encourage staff, some businesses have instituted process improvement incentives, such as pizza or ice cream parties, movie ticket giveaways or, in some cases, cash bonuses.
In the past, the focus of process improvement efforts has been on tools and methodologies, at the expense of harnessing the real engine of change – your people and engaged teams that are driven to improve and succeed.
With the building blocks for a strong improvement culture in place, engaged staff and teams armed with the right attitude can take any tools and turn their efforts into real improvement for your customers and for your bottom line in 2017 and beyond.