When employees feel valued and included, they’re more likely to contribute positively to the company. “By investing in employee engagement, your company will be able to increase productivity, work quality, and retain top talent,” according to SocialChorus.
Clearly, employee engagement is very important, but where do you start? What role does leadership play? Is the feeling of inclusion vital to the success of new projects and initiatives?
In one of our podcast interviews, Allison Greco, a continuous improvement expert and founder of Continuous Improvement International, talks about persuasion and the role it plays in implementing new initiatives. In order to get buy-in, you have to focus a lot on the why.
- Why are we making a change?
- Why now?
- What’s in it for me?
Too many times, we believe that as leaders, we can implement a new project, goal, or software, and expect everyone to jump on board. And, this may be effective initially, but eventually, it will fail. Why? The people who are expected to do this every day, day in and day out, aren’t aware or don’t understand what’s in it for them. What is the point of them doing this extra work? Why? What does it provide them at the end of the day?
Many times, people also think things like a new software is leadership’s way of monitoring employees to punish, big brother so to speak. While this is likely far from the truth, and software like Mingo should never be used to penalize, communication is key in conveying true intentions. But, good software is not just about the software itself. We’ll explain this in further detail in the section titled, “Why are we making a change?”
At the end of the day, it comes down to transparency, communication, and respect for your people. True employee engagement is going to be the key to your success.
In this blog, we’ll tackle the topic of respect, engagement, and conveying “What’s in it for me?” to employees.
Why Are We Making a Change?
Let’s talk about an example. As a person in a leadership role at the plant, you want to implement a new initiative, new software that will help you solve problems on the floor. For the sake of this example, let’s say you have found Mingo and believe it could make a real difference in the plant’s productivity and efficiency.
You’ve gone through the efforts of implementing Mingo in the plant and firmly believe it’s going to transform the company. But immediately, you run into a problem – people aren’t using the software. You’ve spent all of this money and time to make sure it’s a success and find out that usage is non-existent. It’s an incredibly frustrating situation that we see happen all too often.
Did you think about how you would get employees on board beyond simply telling them they needed to use this new software?
If not, you still have the ability to salvage the situation. Even if you know the immense benefits Mingo will provide, your employees need to know that, too. They need to understand why a change is being made and the expected goals that come with that change. Front-line workers need to buy in to make it successful.
Habits and behaviors are a big factor in accomplishing goals in the plant. You can learn more about encouraging employees to develop great habits and behaviors in a previous resource in our Lean Toolbox series.
Too often, top management are disconnected from what’s really happening on the floor. Change the narrative. Instead of front-line workers just thinking your new initiative is just another flavor of the month, get closer to the action and have conversations with your employees to really understand what’s going on so you’re able to communicate the changes in a way that really resonates.
“I can walk out in any factory environment, any office environment, and have a conversation, and say “Hey what’s bugging you, what’s frustrating you?” Paul Dunlop, Founder of Dunlop Consultants and a world-renowned Lean expert, explains. “And then you have something to start with.”
Those conversations give you the leverage you need to effectively communicate why you’re making a change to Mingo in the first place.
To convey why you’re making a change, you need to stop and ask those questions. You “need to be able to be vulnerable and to listen and to take responsibility and then ultimately do something about it,” he adds.
Without vulnerability, you’ll never begin to understand the frustrations and complaints that will give you the ability to position this new software in a way that addresses those frustrations and complaints.
Let’s go back to the software implementation example. Think about what prompted you to begin this search for new software in the first place. Was it increased downtime that was forcing you to schedule unplanned overtime just to meet demand? Or, maybe it was the lack of ability to control your production schedule? Regardless of the problem at hand, think about those emotions and thought processes that led you to that decision.
Convey that to your employees. Have conversations about that motivation. Explain why you’re making a change and the impact it could have on the plant going forward.
Communication “brings meaning,” Jesse DePriest, a Lean Transformation Coach and Director of Operational Excellence at First National Bank of Omaha, says, “Employees know why this is important and what we’re trying to do.”
“Be really honest about where you are. Go measure what is and all of its gory details. Just be honest. No assumptions or feelings. It’s not a reflection of the people,” he says. You’re just trying to understand the current state of reality for this process.
It’s not just about explaining the rationale behind a new project, but relating that motivation to solve problems and challenges to the front-line workers, which we will discuss in length in the next section, “What’s in it for me?”There’s immense benefit in open communication and transparency, both of which contribute to the overall health of your culture and employee productivity.
What’s in it for Me?
Let’s think back to an earlier paragraph where we explained the importance of talking with the front-line workers to understand their frustrations. This is going to provide an outline of approaching your new initiative in a way that explains what’s in it for them. Why should they make an effort to make this initiative successful?
Allison Greco asks, “How does this impact someone’s day? What is it about? What is driving the motivations?” When you have the answers to these questions, you’re able to take the next step.
“You have to get deep in your ability to influence,” she explains.
In fact, Allison has first-hand experience with this type of challenge. While working at the railroad, she was tasked with training people on a new software system being implemented. It didn’t go over well. People were not on board and wanted nothing to do with a new system that would seemingly add even more work to their day-to-day activities. She had to rethink her approach in order to make this a successful initiative.
Instead of simply telling people they had to learn this new software, she took a different approach. She took those three ‘W’ questions and thought about how the software would make their lives easier. Allison sat down with employees, and said, “I know you have a lot of challenges about XYZ, let me show how you can do this with this new tool.”
Rather than telling, she was explaining it in a way that resonated with each person personally and also made their jobs easier.
Think about what a new software like Mingo would do for your employees. Does it solve the frustration of having to manually input data when employees could spend their time doing something else? Does it get rid of the finger-pointing between the maintenance and production teams?
Pinpoint the frustrations it solves and relate that back to your employees in a way that resonates with them. How will it make their job easier? What benefit does it provide them?
When you do this, you’re building trust. “Champion the people at the front lines – I want them to have purpose and meaning and voice in their day-to-day work,” Paul explains.
When people have a voice, they’re invested in their work. When they’re invested in their work, they’re engaged with the company. When they’re engaged with the company, retention is high. When retention is high, results are positive. And, when results are positive, revenue increases. It’s a full-circle approach that centers on the ability to get people to buy into a new initiative and foster employee engagement.
When people understand what’s in it for them, they’re more likely to support a new software implementation or any new project or initiative for that matter.
Beyond influence and persuasion, another approach (or maybe, supplemental to communication) is implementing an incentive program. Nick Hinman, VP of Corporate Strategy at Tacony, has extensive experience setting up and rolling out an incentive program that has transformed his employee’s engagement and performance.
This approach isn’t for everyone, and you have to figure out what’s important to you and what’s going to drive success, but if done properly, it can be a great tool in increasing employee engagement and creating buy-in.
“It’s that effort to keep employees engaged that pays off in the long run. Not only are employees happier with their work, but it pays dividends on the bottom line,” Nick explains.
Leadership is Key in Creating Employee Engagement
As we’ve learned communications and transparency with employees is vital, but, at the end of the day, so much of this approach is centered on good leadership. Good leaders provide an example of how a company should run. “A mature lean organization will have leadership practices and behaviors that support and say, “We’re here to solve problems with you,” Jesse DePriest says.
“It doesn’t matter how much lean training you get. If the culture doesn’t exist and don’t have the right leadership skills, you won’t have sustained success,” Mike Leigh, President of OpX Solutions, says.
This mentality applies to new projects and initiatives, such as Mingo, too. It doesn’t matter how much training you provide if you don’t communicate why you’re making a change, why now, and what it provides to your employees. These 3 key conversations lead to success, especially when leadership is there at every step of the way to guide, too. You cannot have one without the other.
Remember, if you want to make a new initiative successful, get out and walk the plant. Talk with the front-line workers. Find out what is going on. “Your office a terrible place to run a company or department,” Jesse adds.
Embedding the 3 W’s in Your Processes
“If you stay connected at the right level, the right goals are established, and the right tracking is in place, the rest will follow,” Nick explains.
These conversations don’t have to be difficult, but it does need to be embedded in your processes in order to see success. So many times, we see Mingo implemented with the best intentions, but employees on the front line are left out of the conversations. This is the wrong way to approach the situation.
As we’ve said before, and we’ll likely say again, communication and transparency are vital. This cannot be understated.
This strategy is “fundamentally about people and focus on that and approach that in that way,” and you’ll be on the right path Paul Dunlop explains.
“Once you do this, it’s there forever. As long as you continue to grow and nurture that.”