Optimizing the Employee Experience Through Continuous Improvement

by Guest Poster
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It’s often said that a good job is never finished. Business leaders understand this concept well, as many face pressure to grow and compete in an increasingly crowded market. But is it better to change all at once or in degrees? For many people, small changes offer a chance to optimize their business strategy by giving them a chance to focus on continuous improvement.

What is continuous improvement?


Continuous improvement is a collection of concepts and processes that encompass an ongoing effort to improve a product or service. Often referred to as “Kaizen,” a continuous improvement process (CIP) uses a step-by-step, incremental strategy to enact overarching change via a multitude of smaller ones.

This “change by degrees” approach helps break down overwhelmingly high-level organizational strategies into actionable sprints, as well as enable more stakeholders to own parts of an improvement strategy. Essentially, process improvement becomes iterative, with each sprint seeking to tweak or optimize the previous one. These finesse adjustments help businesses constantly audit and adjust their products, processes, strategies, and services. This ultimately drives more effective business outcomes.

Why do businesses use CIPs?


Businesses stand behind Kaizen and CIPs because the concept requires constant vigilance and excellence across all areas of the business. A CIP is a long-term business strategy, with potential application beyond improving go-to-market products and services. Business leaders who apply a CIP to improve their organizational structure can create highly efficient, collaborative workplace cultures.

For example, what if the concept of continuous improvement was applied to optimize internal HR strategies? Many HR professionals subscribe to human capital management (HCM) methodology. HCM focuses on an organization’s need to provide specific HR competencies, including:


  • Workforce acquisition

  • Workforce management

  • Talent management

Because HCM strategy is often supported by the use of a digital software solution or IT infrastructure, auditing and improving established tools and processes is key in ensuring each component of HCM strategy is effective.

There are, however, significant challenges to enacting organizational change. Data collected by Gallup suggests that 59 percent of employees aren’t sure what their company “stands for.” Traditional change management models have prioritized strict guidelines, processes, and rules handed down from executive leadership. This may not be the most effective way to engage in a CIP or to improve the employee experience through periods of adjustment and change.

How does continuous improvement influence employee experience?


An efficient CIP involves the entire organization in the process of change, rather than the notification of change. Here is a closer look at how this approach can optimize the employee experience, through the example of an HR department.

1 - Gains employee buy-in


An HR team looking to improve on their people strategy has a great resource at its disposal: its own workforce. Employee feedback is an incredibly valuable tool in a CIP. A recent LinkedIn article on employee feedback and continuous improvement argued that “internal, rather than external, employee opinion benchmarks” served as the main performance indicator for teams to measure changes in organizational culture.

HR teams should apply the concept of Kaizen to employee surveys in order to get more accurate results, while also gaining buy-in from employees regarding process improvements. Some of the benefits of using a CIP toward employee surveys can include:


  • Ideas are smaller in scale rather than large-scale, radical changes (which aligns with the idea of continuous improvement)

  • Ideas come from the existing workforce rather than hiring expensive outside contractors and consultants

  • Ideas that come from employees are less likely to be radically different and therefore easier to implement

An organization that includes employees in this way provides them with a greater understanding of overarching HR strategy, as well as a sense of partnership with company leaders.

2 - Establishes iterative processes


A CIP is iterative, which means it’s repeated to improve upon the outcome. This is valuable when improving a product or service, but it also applies to internal processes. An HR team can implement a new process, collect performance and feedback data, and then use that data to inform future iterations of that process.

Not only does this establish a framework for continuous improvement within the HR sphere, it also creates a workplace culture that values data-driven continuous improvement. A CIP approach to people management, for example, could involve regular check-ins with employees. At these check-ins, employees can communicate progress toward personal goals and examine how those goals impact overall business objectives. These performance dialogues help managers and employees adjust their behavior over time, incorporating workflow techniques they can apply in their day-to-day roles to drive productivity.

3- Fosters an egalitarian environment


The Gallup study cited earlier referenced that employees are typically not receptive to a top-down change management style. Employees are more likely to embrace a vision they feel they have helped co-create. Continuous improvement helps to create an egalitarian “idea culture,” rather than a stiff hierarchical structure. Under a CIP model, ideas are valued more than status, so if someone has an idea that improves upon a process, their voice counts.

HR teams and business leaders can use digital tools to gather or crowdsource ideas from employees, as well as nominate high-impact, cross-functional individuals to manage tasks in a sprint. Not only does this method assign more accountability to action items in the improvement process, but it also helps to engage more employees throughout the organization.

Change shouldn’t be wholly managed and dictated by the C-suite. An organization that values the voice of every employee and empowers them to be part of the decision-making process will ultimately succeed in retaining and recruiting top talent.

Takeaways


Kaizen methodology creates a culture of continuous improvement that values the entrepreneurial spirit in all employees. As soon as an idea becomes implemented company-wide, a challenge could emerge that threatens the integrity of the process. A business isn’t an insular environment. It’s affected by everything happening externally, as well as by the optimization of its internal people processes.

Business leaders must remain committed to being nimble, constantly evolving their processes, products, and services to meet the fluctuating market. They must listen to every voice in their organization, and set a precedent for implementing new ideas. In HR strategy, as in business, continuous improvement is key in driving positive outcomes in the employee experience.

Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash

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