Culture is key to operational excellence [webinar]

Watch the webinar: Engaging Your Team for Operational Excellence

As an organizational model, operational excellence abides by several principles. It emphasizes continual improvement in operations. It encourages a shared understanding of how processes create value for customers. It encourages employees to seek out inefficiencies in product processes and fix them before they break.

In practice, however, achieving operational excellence requires going one step further: A company must also create a culture that encourages feedback and empowers employees to vocalize areas of improvement.

Giving employees an easy and tangible way to provide feedback leads to several positive business outcomes. It helps management make better and more informed decisions, allows employees to truly feel heard and encourages continual improvements in the organization.

If you don’t have a formal listening program in your company, get started with these four best practices:

1. Incorporate feedback into daily interactions. To build an effective listening program, you must create an open environment for feedback. Ask for it and rely on managers to encourage it. Begin to introduce multiple touchpoints for feedback, whether through manager one-on-ones, town hall meetings or employee surveys. By giving employees and managers multiple ways to voice feedback, you can create a culture that encourages this type of interaction on a daily basis.

2. Assure confidentiality with employees. Your employees need to trust that they can share their opinions without repercussions. Set a minimum threshold of how many surveys you will administer to guarantee that employees won’t be singled out for their feedback. In addition, assure employees that all responses are kept confidential. By creating and communicating this standard, your workforce will naturally provide more candid feedback that leads to operational and cultural improvements.

3. Customize your approach. A “one size fits all” engagement approach is rarely effective. Not only are employees diverse, but their methods of communication are diverse, too. In the healthcare industry, for example, nurses might not check email regularly because they’re distributed across homes or units. Choose a communication strategy that works for your staff, and implement technology that enables better feedback gathering. Make sure that technology is accessible by employees who may not have corporate email addresses; consider looking for features like text authentication or mobile-friendly web views.

4. Act on feedback. Neuroscientist Paul Zak reports that a 10% increase in an employee’s trust in his or her company’s leaders has the same impact on engagement as a 36% salary increase. Once you’ve gathered enough information on a particular issue, remember to communicate company-wide changes you are making as a result of that feedback. By addressing the core of your team’s issues before they impact engagement, you’ll help employees feel heard while increasing trust and retention. If you don’t have enough data to make informed decisions, don’t be afraid to pose more targeted questions to different departments or locations.

Operational excellence isn’t achieved by the work of one leader—or even an entire leadership team. It emerges when an organization seeks out feedback from the employees that have their ears to the ground and can identify areas in need of improvement. By giving employees simple ways to share feedback, you can create a culture of operational excellence that creates substantial value for your business.

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