If we want every person in our business to start identifying problems, solving problems and coming up with new ideas then we will need to properly engage with our people.

The most important thing to do is demonstrate that you will genuinely listen and that you will act if their idea is worth pursuing. For this to work effectively you will need to remove any sense of hierarchy and treat them more like equals.

Most people are inherently lazy and are comfortable with the status quo even if the status quo is uncertain and painful. At least they know the level of pain they are going to be inflicted with. This is why people put up with poor jobs, poor conditions and boring roles.

If we want to energise and motivate our people to think and do things differently then there has to be something in it for them. Something real.

What's in it for me?

Real does not mean suggestion boxes or having a share of the savings from improvement ideas. Remember the whole ethos is to ensure that everyone in your organisation is engaged and takes ownership in improving the business. If people only participate because of a potential monetary reward then you are missing the point. Suggestion boxes or sharing in savings are completely wrong. You will need to look at other ideas to transform the culture into an energised and inclusive one.

You need to do more

One of our clients has achieved just this. Virtually every employee is helping to identify and implement improvements. They have made this happen in a number of ways;

  • Senior managers all agree on the concept and actively encourage their people to get involved
  • They provide regular updates of progress including information about what others have achieved
  • They have provided training and coaching for each person in how to identify and solve problems
  • They have allowed people time to solve problems they have identified
  • They have set up a number of fun competitions to engage with their people and encourage improvement
  • The shop floor gets daily visits from the CEO and other senior managers just to ask them what is happening and how things are going.
  • They have taken some potentially boring roles and given people the opportunity to do other things as part of their job.  Remember we used to call this job enrichment
  • They clearly communicate performance so that people can see how their efforts are affecting the business

In just 18 months this company has been transformed from being the worst performing unit in the group to the best performing unit. Their reward from the group executive has been a substantial investment in new machinery. They now invite customers to the plant and ask them to talk to any member of staff about anything. Their people are energised and the bottom line just gets better and better.

So what’s in it for the staff? Why have they stayed involved? Well, how about improved job security, job enrichment, enjoyment in new tasks and a different view on life. They all see that life is better and that it can only get better. This is encouraging them to look for and solve more issues and to develop new ideas and approaches which will make them more successful. They now have 100 people working on business improvement, not just a handful.

And it’s not just them, we’ve seen the same thing happen with a number of companies we’ve worked with. Take a look here, here and here.

What is stopping you from doing the same in your organisation? How could you change your approach to business improvement and get your people engaged and involved?

It just starts with one step. What is your step going to be?

Take the first step