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Change Management: Driving Innovation Through a Culture of Continuous Improvement

by Cynthia Hannafey, Managing Director, UHY Consulting

How do you prepare your people and your staffing company for both innovation and change? You create a sustainable culture of continuous improvement. Companies are expected to innovate and become profitable more quickly than ever before, which makes competition extremely fierce. Economic stimuli change the business landscape constantly; when your processes are stagnant and your people are not engaged, it is nearly impossible to innovate. In order to compete in business today, you need to drive innovation in your organization. But with innovation comes change, and change is not always easy.

Sustainable Continuous Improvement
Developing a sustainability program is the first step to developing and/or maintaining your competitive edge. There are many different definitions of sustainability, but in the context of a business environment, the most inclusive way to define sustainability is as the conscious and proactive use of methods that do not harm people, planet, or profit while also leaving a positive impact. For your staffing company to thrive, it is critical to initiate programs that create value and help the business evolve by engaging the stakeholders and conditioning your entire organization for sustainable changes. These are the areas that will truly help you remain competitive.

There are five critical steps to creating a performance management program.

1. Measure                                                
To make sure that processes align with corporate goals and strategies, your company needs to develop effective measurement strategies by asking the right questions in the beginning, such as: “What are our KPIs?” “What are they intended to measure?” “What do we want to improve by tracking this?” Data provides key indicators to help pinpoint when and where there is a problem, which ultimately translates to profitability. Many companies don’t invest in automation and robust ERP systems, which is a mistake.

Another common error is adding people in response to a problem, when the more sustainable and cost-effective solution begins with identifying the root cause through measuring data. Extracting data and measuring KPIs around processes often allows companies to identify millions of dollars in savings.

2. Empower                                                
You want to create value for your customers as well as engaging your stakeholders and employees. By empowering employees and involving the people close to the Gemba, you allow them to solve problems and not just cover them up. Engaged employees set the stage for change. If they buy into this empowered culture from the beginning, change will happen quickly and smoothly. You will also be able to utilize improvement ideas from the people who are actually doing the work. They see things in your organization that others don’t and can often make immediate changes that have a positive effect on processes, people, and profitability.

3. Publish                                                
If you can’t see the big picture, it is difficult to make meaningful changes that will have a positive impact. With a performance management program, visual boards are the ideal solution in that they communicate goals to people at all levels, identify problems while there is still time to make a difference, help instill process discipline, and keep everyone informed. Daily control and monitoring of department-wide measures provides trending data to highlight systematic issues. If something is out of sight, it is usually out of mind as well. Keep the information in front of your employees, and you will see positive changes.

4. Communicate                                            
Timely communication is key when it comes to sustainability. Holding a daily accountability meeting that lasts anywhere from 15-30 minutes allows time to address the previous day’s sub-optimal performance as well as set expectations for any potential disruptions in today’s operations. With a quick daily meeting, team members at all levels can address issues in real time which, initiates and expedites the root cause analysis process. In this meeting you will also assign actionable corrective measures and identify future continuous improvement opportunities. Participation from all areas and appropriate levels is necessary to enhance communication horizontally and vertically.

5. Celebrate                                                
To keep employees engaged and passionate about what they do, celebrate the wins. This is accomplished through employee appreciation and peer recognition. Listen to your employees as they are the ones who drive innovation. Ask them, “If you had a magic wand, what would you do?” It says to the employees, “My ideas mean something,” and what is a better motivator than seeing your own ideas put into action? It inspires people to go forth and do good things!

For an organization to thrive, it must be sustainable. If you do nothing else, put a performance management program in place. It empowers employees and fosters a culture where employees think like owners, and when employees think like owners, productivity improves, waste declines, and complexity is kept to a minimum via continuous monitoring. These improvements are noticeable and contribute to the bottom line. When incorporated into an organization, the employees themselves become a competitive advantage in the marketplace. By creating a culture of continuous improvement, you can drive innovation by breaking free from the “we have always done it this way” mentality.

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