Creating Employee Engagement, Part 3
The Development of Systems to Support Engagement
When conducting an assessment, one of the most revealing questions that I seem to ask is “if you have found waste or an opportunity to improve, what do you do with it?” I usually get answers ranging from “I don’t know” to “I wait for the next kaizen event.” Organizations will often want people engaged and even teach them some skills to get them engaged, but fall short of creating a mechanism that actually enables this. Instead, we become dependent on the sheer willpower of the individual to decide to overcome momentum and make a change. This is a big chance to take.
Systems and processes must be build that support engagement. This includes problem solving to new idea engagement. There is certainly no one best mechanism.
When developing systems, consider two important criteria in the design. First, consider the natural flow of work. You want people to be able to leverage whatever systems you design while they are doing the work. If they have to disengage with the work to engage in some other system, it is not going to be very supportive of their needs. Second, consider how you can enable decision making at the point of activity within the systems. This might be decision guides, criteria, standard work, or simple empowerment. Anything that requires permission or interruption in order to complete a task is disempowering and disengages the employees.
Systems can include problem solving or help chain systems, suggestion or idea systems, or even processes such as scoreboards and team huddles. I wrote about help chain systems in a Leading Lean column Forging Your Help Chain, and shared the mistakes of many suggestion systems in another Leading Lean column Make Suggestions Productive. The second column demonstrates a common mistake when designing any such system: don’t build a new disconnected system from the work. It must be embedded in the work. It must be physically where the work is done, available when the work is done, work within the flow of daily work, and leverage the infrastructure that already exists.
What systems do you have that help build engagement? What has worked for you?