trapped in the maze
If you're struggling with engaging employees with process improvements, you're not alone PHOTO: Andrew Loke

Is it a struggle to get your staff involved in process improvement initiatives? 

If so, you’re not alone. Businesses in virtually every industry wrestle with how to engage teams in efforts to improve business processes. Even once they do get employees involved, it’s often a challenge to sustain the momentum.

The good news is that given the chance, most employees do want to have a voice in process improvement. Management just needs to make it as easy as possible for staffers to do so.

Top 10 Process Improvement Tips 

We asked more than 300 process professionals how they drive engagement. Here are their top 10 tips for engaging teams and getting them excited about driving process improvement:

1. Communication

Establishing a plan for communicating process improvement initiatives is essential for keeping them top-of-mind with your staff. Using a variety of vehicles, from emails to newsletter articles to lunchroom posters, will help in maintaining consistent communications. 

Some companies have even created role plays, or gone so far as to make videos or animations, to demonstrate the benefits of easy-to-follow processes to their staffs and customers. 

What’s more, it’s often helpful to share the communications workload to increase ownership of the results and make the task easier to manage. This can be done by identifying process improvment champions who are willing to take turns sharing their tips of the week with users.

2. Recognition

To maintain interest among process users, it’s important to give recognition where recognition is due. That can mean instituting easy-to-run recognition programs like naming a process user of the month, most innovative process improvement suggestion or the process of the week. 

Some companies also set up Heroes (top users) and Villains (infrequent users) leaderboards, while others regularly announce their new Certified Process Champions publicly to their organizations.

3. Employee training

Ensuring workers have proper training, ongoing support and the resources they need to get involved with continuous improvement initiatives is vital. Training staff as part of the onboarding process when they’re hired also helps to ensure that expectations around process management discipline are clear from the start. 

For ongoing support, some businesses hold drop-in sessions during which users can have their process questions answered by their organization’s process champions.

4. Fun and competition

Recognizing that staff engagement in process improvement can be difficult to maintain, many companies have appealed to people’s competitive instincts by holding competitions, both within teams and across their entire organizations. 

Some businesses have even created games such as process sprints or virtual scavenger hunts with clues hidden within processes to make process improvement more memorable and fun.

5. Leadership

There’s a lot to be said for senior management buy-in, but you also need bulldogs on the front lines to lead the charge for process improvement. 

That’s why it’s important to involve your company’s leadership team in process improvement communications, and to make sure their support is visible to your entire operation. It also helps to build up a strong champion or super-user network to maintain momentum in all areas of your business.

6. Collaboration

Because process improvement is a team effort, it’s essential to convey the message that everyone at your company is in it together. Businesses might consider holding process improvement brainstorming sessions to get their business teams thinking outside the box about process improvement. 

Such sessions can also serve as an opportunity to work through process pain points together to develop joint buy-in for the best improvement ideas.

7. Daily integration

Embedding process information into daily activities and other business systems such as the company intranet, will also help to drive employee engagement. A good trick to drive usage is to host the essential documents that everyone routinely needs to access as part of your organization’s business process management tool. 

Other companies have tied process improvement into personal and team performance outcomes and expectations, including KPIs, job descriptions and personal development programs. 

8. Accountability 

Giving staff the autonomy and resources needed to map, review and ultimately own their own processes and improvement ideas will have a major impact on process engagement. 

To empower staff to be accountable, many organizations have set up dedicated weekly timeslots, as well as expected timeframes for completing process-related tasks. Some businesses also provide guidelines for dealing with feedback and providing improvement suggestions, including suggested response times.

9. Room for improvement 

To maintain engagement with process improvement initiatives, it is essential for companies to recognize that their work will never be complete. They must always be open to listening to users’ suggestions and concerns. And if no one is talking about process improvement, ask why or bring up the subject yourself. 

Businesses can also consider conducting their own engagement surveys, with action plans driven by the results.

10. Bribery

Let’s face it: everyone is susceptible to a little bribery. If all else fails, a small incentive may be all it takes to drive motivation and participation. To encourage staff, some businesses have instituted process improvement incentives such as pizza or ice cream parties, movie ticket giveaways or even, in some cases, cash bonuses.

Engaging Staffers and Teams 

In the past, the focus of process improvement efforts has been on tools and methodologies at the expense of harnessing the real engine of change: engaged people and engaged teams who are driven to improve and succeed.

With a strong improvement culture in place, engaged staff and teams armed with the right attitude can take any tools and turn their efforts into real improvements for your customers and your bottom line.