This page provides more information about the final pillar of our 100-criteria Operational Excellence model: Employee Engagement; with 17 criteria. Each item on this list is covered in more detail, but the goal of this document was never to provide you with a 100% overview of each one. Instead, we hope to provide a much-needed context - giving you enough details so that you can then use those criteria to evaluate your own organisation's Operational Excellence level in the future.
Over the years, a wide variety of different studies have shown that highly engaged employees tend to be far more productive than average. This increased level of productivity and enjoyment of one’s work directly contributes to not only a more efficiently run organisation, but a more profitable one as well.
But this is about doing more than just creating a nice place to work. Putting out a fooseball table or offering free snacks at lunchtime are nice gestures, but they are simply that – gestures. Instead, you need to show that you’re really willing to take care of your people. You do this by creating interesting jobs and by living the values that you preach on a daily basis.
All of this begins by getting and developing the right leaders in the first place, which is a large part of what this pillar is all about.
One of the most important things to understand about all of this is that leadership and behaviours will always be the actual and concrete manifestation (or translation) of the business strategy. Daily behaviors are, in the end, a result of the strategy and how the Leadership implemented it in the organisation, while building itself.
Leadership is both the source and the result of Operational Excellence, and it is therefore doubly important to develop it. Having said that, we do not advocate for “Grand Leadership Development Plans”. These often fail, as evidenced by a recent article by McKinsey titled “Why Leadership Development Programs Fail.”Instead, leadership development should be focused on the capabilities that are most important for the company’s success. They should be aligned with both the strategy AND the improvement initiatives. They should focus on concrete desired behaviours occurring in different “managerial moments,” with examples including situations where each manager, at his organisational level:
When done in this way, leadership development actually integrates nicely with the strategy and existing improvement plans. This is true because one of the key success factors of new ways of working implementation (think: processes, systems and organisations) involves changing the behavior of both managers and people; what happens especially in these "managerial situations".
Organisation values should be clearly defined and you should have preferably involved employees in the definition process. They should be communicated and lived upon.
For example, values compliance can become part of the individual's performance evaluation and it really impacts the final score and rewards they receive. These should also used in the recruitment process to ensure they are shared.
The ultimate test is to be able to part with an extremely competent person, but who does not share (and does not demonstrate) the company's values; because in the end, keeping him will create more harm than good for the company by creating a counter-culture and dissociating a part of the organisation... but this can be seen much later, and too late.
Values should always be illustrated by concrete behaviour guidelines applicable to typical business situations. For example, "team-spirit" could be illustrated by "offering to help to resolve other ones issues" in a management meeting. Ideally, a list of major concrete behaviours is formally defined with regular team self-assessments of the reality of these behaviours.
Learning, improving and trying new things needs to become an essential part of not only your company culture, but also individual evaluations as well. There is room for error, however, as making errors is better than doing nothing. We don't like to go as far as to say that there is a culture encouraging risk, because while this may be applicable to most environments, there are businesses that may also rely on low risk culture to thrive. Situations where there are high safety standards would be an example of this.
The idea that people development is a key to success for your company is not a new one. Indeed, most of the organisations we’ve worked with wholeheartedly agree with that idea.
The hard part, however, involves making a development programme effective as it is required to be both standard AND customised. It must also be fully managed by the HR department, but with strong collaboration with managers.
It must also be designed in a way that helps people understand the overall competency gap (which means the target has been defined and the current state has been assessed) and the individual gap, as well.
A competency and skills map should be used to identify the key competencies (like communication and collaboration) and skills (which are more specific to a job) for either all or a category of employees, and based on a common framework (by category of competence).
Note only should this be in place, but it needs to be up-to-date and regularly used as an integral part of the processes supporting both the external and internal recruitment process. It should also support training and the development needs for individuals as well as for the overall organisation, or the individual yearly development objective setting.
This framework should balance comprehensiveness (to identify more precisely the gaps that exist), with pragmatism (to facilitate employee buy-in). Also, it is best if the framework is designed collaborative, with the full input of managers in each area.
Not only should a structured training program be in place, but it should also contain the following elements:
Likewise, this training program must be clearly aligned with both the business’ strategy and the competency gaps identified, both in terms of the content and the populations targetted with this education.
A mechanism should be in place (be it communication, a programme accessible on a website, or support from HR staff) to help individuals, their managers or those HR employees to identify the relevant trainings for each employee relative to their evaluation.
The importance of making sure that each employee is involved in choosing their training materials cannot be overstated. Those trainings should be ones within or related to his or her development needs, so that this person is motivated to follow them thoroughly. Ultimately, nobody knows what the employees need better than the employees themselves.
Likewise, a mentoring program should be set up in a structured manner (meaning with a clear definition of the responsibilities and objectives for both the mentor and the mentee). According to one recent study conducted by Fortune Magazine (article titled “The War For Talent” by Ed Michaeles, Helen Hadonfield-Jones and Beth Axelrod), nearly 76% of the top 25 companies have already set up mentoring programmes of this kind. 95% of participants in those programmes say that it has motivated them in a way that increased their performance.
When implementing a reward and recognition system, that system must be fully aligned with the business strategy. This is important because rewards can help make significant, positive contributions to the behaviours of individuals. Overall, it must be seen as the ULTIMATE implementation of that business strategy at the individual level.
The individual evaluation process must be clearly defined, documented in full transparency (excluding any personal information about the individual, of course) and communicated to the employees. There must be at least one evaluation per year, although there may be specific roles that have more frequent evaluations. A project team member might be evaluated after each project, for example.
Each individual should always receive clear objectives either at or before the start of the evaluation period. Likewise, most of these objectives will need to be measurable and the evaluation criteria must be clearly defined.
At least some of the personal objectives must be clearly linked to either a part or all of the Performance Objectives of the team the employee in question belongs to.
A mechanism should always be in place to align the evaluation scores made by different managers across the organisation and to balance the usage of different evaluation scales (like some managers who evaluate harshly while others who evaluate nicely)
For example, all evaluations might be reviewed by a group of managers and each manager's evaluation might be challenged for the sake of transparency and then rescaled.
Rewards should always be well aligned to the evaluations employees are receiving, and should be sufficiently differentiated from one another, even (or especially) when your business' overall budget is constrained.
This is all essential to reward the best performing employees (or best performing teams when teamwork is highly valued).
This ALSO includes things like salary and compensation (including bonuses) in addition to promotions. Rewards and recognition aren't exclusively about these things, however - should be practiced on a daily basis through thanks, praise, or other means in line with the company's culture (for example: "employee of the month" is a practice that does not suit all cultures).
Managers should be trained to regularly thank employees for a job well done, and to celebrate both big AND small successes with their team and individuals.
The bigger the organisation, the more distant people are – this is just the way things work. There are a plenty of different organisational departments to deal with, not to mention different sites, objectives and people.
There are many mechanisms that can be used to try to cope with this indirectly including communication, defining teamwork objectives and others. However, there are also the following specific tasks you can use to not only reinforce the core strength of the team, but to make sure that each person feels like they belong to a company that is a genuinely good place to work for.
Workforce diversity has been widely promoted - but unfortunately, articles like this one show that this is done without solid scientific evidence to back it up.
It is very likely that diversity either already exists in a business, or its emergence is inevitable. At this point, the right thing to do is to actively MANAGE it and SUPPORT it moving forward.
The promotion of specific demographic or sociological groups must always be aligned with the strategic goals of your business. Cultural training sessions must be regularly delivered, and communication should overcome cultural language.
But even more importantly, teamwork and open-mindedness must be encouraged whenever the opportunity arises.
There are a wide range of different studies that suggest teamwork has an appreciable, positive influence on organisational performance. Because of that, you need to make it a priority to actively promote that teamwork with systemic and consistent actions. These include but are not limited to things like:
Regular employee surveys should be conducted to solicit input and show you involve the employees in the business organisation.
However, surveys are often too heavily focused on someone’s individual needs (like their satisfaction, motivation, training and development). Instead, they should cover more of the organisation’s characteristics, like strategy, organisational structure, roles and responsibilities, performance management systems, processes and even tools. They should also be directly linked to current strategic or improvement plans.
Truth be told, these should not be employee surveys at all. They should be “organisational surveys” and they should be given frequently.
Many people advocate for “Pulse” surveys that are done on a weekly basis, for example. We however do not support this because it is taking something significant away from the role of the manager, who is already supposed to be giving and getting feedback. In our opinion, these recommendations come mainly from survey software vendors and HR consultants who give very interested advice...for their own benefit.
Instead, we would rather you invest in managers and leadership than in surveys given out too frequently.
We also believe that employee surveys should follow the rhythm of the strategic or improvement plans, which should obviously already exist. Such surveys are like the “C” in the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act). Employees need to be able to SEE the actual improvements taking place based not only on the strategy and improvement plans, but on the literal feedback they’ve provided the management with.
Finally, we arrive at the idea of safety and personal health – two qualities that should always be a priority for anyone in a leadership position.
We believe that investing in employee safety, health and environment (HSE) is a key component of operational excellence. It is the former CEO of Saint-Gobain, J.L. Beffa, who perhaps said it best when he said “look at the safety record of a company and you will know its operational excellence.” Mr.Beffa was once nominated as the Best Manager of the Year, so we can believe him.
All of this is important because employees will ALWAYS be the most important resource of a company. If a company takes care of them, they will take care of the organisation.
Secondly, don’t forget that HSE is a cost – and one not directly linked to sales or bottom line performance. Companies that invest in HSE clearly have a long-term focus and operations that are good enough to be dedicate the resources necessary to implement a quality HSE system in the first place.
In other words, quality companies make safety and personal health a priority.
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