The next step is to add employee
empowerment and employee development to our business
Every business and work process eventually requires that people make decisions to do the right thing.
For employees to act appropriately there must be employee motivation
that is a natural growth from employee development and employee
empowerment. Usually an active employee
development training program is required to develop employee
empowerment. As human beings we are all created with a free will and the capability to make decisions. When employees are not making the correct decisions, no matter how good the process or system, problems will soon develop.
Active employee development and employee empowerment will help
create the environment where employee motivation can develop so more of these decisions beneficial to your
organization. Every level of needs to understand employee development
and employee empowerment. A consistent training plan that
starts with executive
coaching and includes management
training as well as supervisor
training while offering leadership
for all employees will speed realization of empowered employees.
There are an almost infinite number of small details that no one except the person actually doing the work can ever know.
Without employee empowerment it is difficult to take advantage of this
knowledge. All of this knowledge is valuable and waiting to be tapped for your organization's benefit. Many organizations make a halfhearted attempt
at employee empowerment with the Suggestion Box that is never opened. The last one I had opened contained several gum wrappers and one suggestion; it was over six months old. While this may fool some into thinking they have an avenue for
participation and employee empowerment, others are successfully tapping this resource.
Frequently assumptions are made about employee attitude and willingness to participate based not on the
actual employee motivation but employee reaction to the way they are treated by supervision. In many organizations
there is essentially no employee empowerment, no freedom to make even basic decisions.
These same employees are community leaders, serve on church boards, are elected officials, do volunteer work, have their own businesses, and in a variety of other ways demonstrate a capability far above what is used in their work. What could happen to your business if
through employee development and employee empowerment your employees brought the same dedication, effort and thought to work that they freely give away outside of work? Improvements in productivity of 25% to 50% have been demonstrated when employers are willing to engage their
employee and create an environment where employee motivation is the norm
not the exception..
The synergy of work processes /system improvements can be amazing. A proven effective way to get involvement is to focus on the cycle time of important work processes. Even with uninspired and hesitant team members it is common to have 35+% reductions in cycle time. The importance of
cycle time reduction goes much deeper than just being able perform in a process in less time without adding effort. In an organization dedicated to learning how to improve itself, every cycle is an opportunity to learn and improve. An organization with a 33% advantage in cycle time not only has the advantage of lower costs (time is always money) and the ability to do more with the same or fewer resources but also they get three opportunities to learn for every two opportunities for their competitors. In soccer terms that is getting three shots on goal for every two from your opponent. Benefits continue to feed on themselves and the advantages grow bigger and bigger.
Teaching people how to use relatively simple problem solving tools and techniques is the easy part of
employee development. Usually after just a little training and experience with one or two work related problems the basic tools are mastered well enough for most to start using them on their own.
Even high motivated employees need the necessary tools to do a good job. When placed in teams they are prepared to make use of the many specifics that only they know to improve products and work processes. If your organization is going to approach six sigma performance levels (less than 3.4 ppm error rate) you will have to get your employees actively involved using problem solving tools.
Even the best training/development programs can not assure that all employees will get involved. One of the prime jobs of supervision and management is to create the climate and the systems for
employee motivation. Organizations need empowered employees involved from the neck up and not just from the neck down. This is not to say that all will chose to do so. The obligation is provide the opportunity and the means. It is then the duty of the employee to take advantage of
the employee development opportunity. Most employees when they believe in and trust their management/supervision will leap at the opportunity to make higher level contributions to the organization.
In addition to basic problem solving skills training an employee development process is needed. This process should stimulate thinking and encourage employees to make positive change in their behavior, attitude and habits of thought about work. Frequently however the biggest changes in these areas have to occur at the management and supervision levels. Turf protection, arbitrary rules, inflexible systems, capricious authority, poor listening, and reservation of the right to make all decisions diminish the likelihood that employee will contribute even a fraction of their capability. True management skill involves the ability to direct, coach, delegate and mentor individuals and teams depending upon the situation and the employee's need. Developing management and supervision with the skill and confidence to behave in this way is not a trivial task. For this reason we strongly recommend that the employee development start at the top of the organization with a consistent philosophy and approach backed up with observable behaviors.
With Six Sigma Plus this area of personal development receives significant attention. Even when no new technical skills or tools are taught improvements are often impressive. This is especially true when a coordinated effort starts at the Executive Level in the organization and moves through the Managers, Supervisors and Employees working on the same concepts and approach.
Many organizations spend time and money on training efforts to teach new skills to employees who are using a small fraction of the skills developed in past training. Efforts at developing employees and allowing those who want to become more involved (which are most of them) usually will have much higher returns. An additional benefit is they are then more valued employees whose change in attitude is reflected in their work.
Every activity or job has some level of technical skill that must be mastered in order to perform at an acceptable level. Without these it is much like trying to turn a screw into a board without a screwdriver. Demonstrated knowledge and skills are essential. In some cases employees come to the job with all of those skills. More commonly your employees will have a certain base level of competence but still will require additional training and development before they can make a positive contribution. Sometimes it can take years for the contribution to pay back the time value of the investment made in an employee. An obvious improvement would be to reduce the amount of time (cycle time) that it takes for new employees to reach the point of net return.
The attitude that employee have on the work place can be as important than the actual technical skill level. Most of the time when we speak of an employee having an attitude it goes without saying that we are talking about a poor attitude. When speaking of a positive attitude it is always preceded with the good descriptor. Our experience confirms that poor attitude is one of the more common concerns in the work environment. Actually it is not the attitude that is the problem, rather the behaviors that results from that attitude is of concern. When someone is described as having a bad attitude and you press for how anyone else can know if someone has a bad attitude the responses are fairly typical. Attendance problems, marginal quantity or quality of work, interpersonal problems with co-workers or supervisors, poor communications, lack of cooperation in any activity, etc. The list is remarkable similar no matter what the job, company, industry, or part of the world.
Our behaviors are how other people decide what kind of attitude they think we have. Almost everyone will make the connection between behavior and attitude.
Our study indicates that attitudes tend to drive behavior and are a result of our internal values and beliefs, many of which were imprinted at a very early age. We have to live with the early messages for the rest of our lives. That means that if we as individuals are going to change our attitudes we must find a way to over come that early conditioning. Fortunately we can make a conscious choice to add to the values and beliefs system we have imprinted. Each of us can make the conscious decisions to enlarge our individual inventory of experiences. In the correct environment individuals can examine values and beliefs and chose if they want to make a change. The change is not always easy, but the beginning of change lies in changing the habits of thought, our self-talk.
The sequence is that our habits of thought (self-talk) drives our attitudes and our attitudes drive our behavior. All three will have a certain amount of harmony or agreement. To make a conscious decision to change we need to change the way we think--change our habits of thought.
Changing someone else's attitude is an impossible task. What can be done is to over the circumstances where if someone wants to make a change it is possible. Lasting motivation comes from within. Some things can be done in the short term, but long term motivation and change is a personal event.
In order to help people learn one must understand that most people learn based on three basic inputs.
First is a significant emotional event. Almost all of us can remember where we were and what we were doing for some common major events. As a test, if you are old enough, Where were you when you first heard that JFK was shot? What were you doing when you heard about or saw the TV pictures of the Challenger explosion? These are significant events that do not require effort on your part to remember. They are events that impact us and we remember them for the rest of our lives with no effort or conscious decision to so. Each of as individuals has a number of unique significant events that are part of us no matter what we do. These types of experiences are almost impossible to predict or create and thus are difficult to use a method of planned learning.
A second method is the "Aha, I have it!". Discovery of a principle or concepts on you own. You see this depicted in the cartoons as the light bulb turning on in someone's head. Most of the time this is highly unpredictable and also very difficult to use as a method for planned learning.
The third method is to take advantage of spaced repetition. A little test can demonstrate that for you. All questions to be answered in less than 2 seconds. (3times 2=? ) ( 4 times 4=? ) Now try (16 times 18.27=?) While there may be some that can answer all three in 2 seconds or less most of us are going to get the first two but not the third. I contend it is because at some point we learned our multiplication tables though a process of drill and spaced repetition, now they are automatic and we don't have to think to get the answer.
Using this principle of spaced repetition is one predictable way to have planned learning. Single exposures have a retention of about 2% after 16 days. If on the other hand you can get six exposures over six consecutive days the retention rate soars to 62% after 15 years. This is why most corporate communications and seminars have little lasting impact. Six Sigma Plus training or any other kind of training/development that is not spread out over time and does not have repeated exposure between sessions has little chance of success.
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