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Tips to Enhance Employee Involvement in Process Improvement

I enjoy trying new recipes but if you know me at all, I’m not very good at following instructions.  So, the first time I try a recipe, I will try to follow the instructions and for the most part, use the specified ingredients. If a recipe proves to be worth trying again, I will begin analyzing the instructions in order to find a more efficient way to prepare the dish.

I am sure that the creator of the recipe came up with the process based on the skills and equipment that she had, but, my kitchen set-up is different and as a result, I’m sure I can find a more efficient way to achieve the same results.

The Job Methods program within Training Within Industry has a similar goal but on a much larger scale.  This program was developed to teach employees to understand and improve their work and to sell their improvement ideas to their supervisors, peers and upper management.  The goal is to give plant personnel the tools they need in order to produce more products in less time with the same level of quality while utilizing the available resources.

If you believe that your plant has opportunities to enhance employee involvement in your process improvement initiatives, I would make the following suggestions:

  1. State the organizational goals and how improving the process of how things are done will help achieve those goals.  Make sure these goals are congruent with the workforce goals, i.e. increased profitability.
  2. Give employees the freedom to question how things are done.  Don’t allow the phrase “but we have always done it that way” to be used.  Perhaps set-up a friendly fine for the person who expresses that sentiment.
  3. When looking at ways to improve a process, utilize a Job Methods Breakdown sheet in order to capture all the steps in the process and then question every step.  Ask Why? What? Where? When? Who? How? as you work through each of the steps.
  4. Provide employees a method for making suggestions for process improvements.  I have often heard employees say that they have made suggestions but no one ever accepts them.  But, in order for a process improvement idea to be made, it needs to be well thought out and presented in a setting where constructive feedback can be made and received.
  5. Make sure employees receive recognition for their ideas.  The more recognition they receive; the more ideas they will generate.

Employee involvement in continuous improvement activities is an important key to the success of manufacturing companies.  But, without the proper training and support, employees may end up feeling disconnected from these activities.  Effective communication, robust training and an open and supportive workplace will go a long way towards achieving your productivity goals.

For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to