A culture of continuous improvement comes above everything for a workforce to thrive. Where some business cultures plateau and grow stale after minor success, the best companies create an environment that allows their employees to grow as the company grows. By creating a culture of continuous improvement and never allowing the business to grow stagnant, your company can see improvements in effectiveness, see a lower turnaround, and deliver better across all metrics.
What does a culture like this look like? How do you achieve this kind of work environment? It starts with setting proper goals, ongoing training, providing useful feedback, building trust among workers, and being consistent.
Set Goals and Communicate Them to Everyone
Success will not be achieved if the employees’ behaviors are not directed towards achieving some kind of clear goal. “Sell a lot” and “provide good service” aren’t good goals – they are barely even slogans. Goal setting means setting a clear, specific, and achievable benchmark for progress on how employees will perform their job duties. Goal setting should be tailored to each employee since not all employees will be at the same level in their performance for a variety of reasons. New employees can’t be expected to perform at the same pace as tenured veterans. Next, clear communication of these goals to each employee is the next piece of the puzzle. Each employee should know what their specific goals are, and there should be easy follow-up and reporting of the goals. Once set, a goal can change if the pace or the progress isn’t realistic.
Goals should be set with the right progress structure in mind. Progress for individuals doesn’t look like an exponential growth curve most of the time. It looks a lot more like a stock market graph – the idea being that while the line ticks up and down the overall trend is up.
Managers must invest in their employees to sharpen their skills and job knowledge effectively. This is the key responsibility of management roles, and a good manager will impact their employees’ performances positively as they invest the time and energy into developing their talents. When trained continually, employees feel that their managers value them and their growth, which significantly boosts their level of engagement. Lack of skills to operate tools and equipment will demotivate employees, distract them, and make it easy for them to forget the end goals. Giving an employee a task or a goal without providing them the tools necessary to accomplish it will kill the momentum of an employee’s progress. This can be supplemented by classes and activities like six sigma training.
No job role stays the same forever – there are constantly changes to the best ways to accomplish a task or how a job is done. Don’t allow your employees to stagnate.
Continuous improvement will be challenging as it involves never settling in to one way of doing things. Sometimes one method works well for a while, but its effectiveness peters out over time as industries, tools, and customer interests change. Managers and employees need to be able to communicate what is working and what isn’t working on a regular basis. Feedback is a crucial part of this conversation.
Credit should be given where it is due and rewarded or celebrated as often as possible. If something isn’t working whether it be a process, an attitude, or a work relationship then it must be addressed, and course corrected. Create an environment that encourages employees to celebrate each other’s successes and don’t pit them against each other. Importantly, feedback should be regularly given and authentic. A sweet lie to protect someone’s feelings will be a small salve for when their bad behaviors cost them the rewards from their goals. Tough conversations are often the most important ones to have.
Trust Your Employees
In any business, employees are valuable in fostering continuous improvement. They deal with products or services and directly interact with the clients, so they are the best source for information on how the business is working or not working. Managers should trust their ideas and suggestions and consider them when making decisions about products, policies, and services.
Also, managers should avoid micromanaging employees. Instead, they should exercise minimal control, let the employees challenge themselves (particularly when setting goals), and trust they can do their best without maximum supervision. This will inspire employees to take the initiative and hence, attain continuous improvement.
Avoid Office Gossip
Gossiping is the easiest way of breaking trust, especially at the workplace. Workers’ gossiping about a colleague or their boss is toxic and unfavorably impacts team unity. In addition, some of the cheap gossip lies are spread by employees seeking to gain favor from the bosses, which is destructive and selfish behavior. However, without a team effort, it will be impossible to attain continuous improvement. Therefore, gossip should be avoided to build trust, enhance team unity and increase performance. Solving the issue in private with the person is a better approach than gossiping.
Be a Role Model
Employees will learn best by observing how the management carries out the culture. If you make plans and put little effort into following through or do the opposite, the employees will not follow the intended direction. They will judge the managers according to the commitment and dedication they show towards continuous improvement. Therefore, managers should participate alongside their employees in achieving the business goals and show employees that they value trust and teamwork.
As the term suggests, continuous improvement is an ongoing process and not a benchmark that can be reached and then ignored. Managers have to be consistent in creating new habits, communicating them to the employees, and reinforcing such behaviors. This will help to maintain the culture, increase trust, increase performance and enhance team unity for extended periods. Thus, a business will be able to achieve excellent outcomes for longer.
In conclusion, building a continuous improvement culture takes years of planning and purposeful action. It is crucial to note that culture comes from the management but is executed by employees. Managers should therefore be knowledgeable, trustworthy, and willing to work with teams to achieve goals. They should also avoid office gossip and dishonest feedback that would easily ruin trust at the workplace. Employees will easily emulate them and build a trust environment where they can rely on each other and increase productivity.