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PHOTO: Cathal Mac an Bheatha

Are your business processes crying out for a little love? The best way to ensure that your processes remain static, out of date and rarely used, is to deprive them of love and attention from your teams.

When processes are routinely ignored or viewed as a hurdle that teams would rather bypass, it signals a need for change. And yet, engaging people in the task of prioritizing process improvement is a challenge that many organizations encounter.

7 Ways to Rekindle the Process Improvement Love

Here are seven tips for helping your organization foster and retain engagement with — and rekindle employee love for — process improvement efforts.

1. Gather Support (and Make it Visible)

Senior management buy-in will set your business process mapping apart. However, doers who lead the charge for process improvement are just as important. Involve the organization’s leadership team in process improvement communications, and make sure their support is visible to the entire operation.

In addition to senior leadership support, build up a strong network of champions or super users so that momentum can be maintained in all areas of your organization.

2. Involve Everyone

Process improvement is a team effort, so it is essential to let everyone know that “We’re all in this together.” A practical way to illustrate this could be by holding one or more process improvement brainstorming sessions to get teams thinking outside the box about process improvement. These sessions can also serve as an opportunity to work through process pain points together. That way, teams jointly come up with the best improvement ideas.

3. Make Process Improvement a Routine Activity

Embed process information into daily activities and into other business systems, like the company intranet, to drive employee engagement. Some organizations tie process into personal and team performance outcomes and expectations, including key performance indicators, job descriptions and personal development programs.

Give staff the autonomy and resources they need to map, review and, ultimately, own their own processes and improvement ideas, so they can integrate processes into their daily activities. You could set up a dedicated time slot for completing process-related tasks, and provide set response times and other guidelines for dealing with feedback and suggestions for improvements.

4. Share Information Regularly

Decide how best to communicate your process improvement initiatives so they stay top of mind among employees. Use a number of different media, like email messages, newsletters articles and lunchroom posters, to maintain ongoing communication. Some companies have encouraged process improvement champions to take turns sharing a “Tip of the Week” with users. Others have even had presentations where employees perform skits to promote process improvement, or have spread the word via videos.

Part of the communication cycle includes listening to users’ suggestions and concerns. If no one is talking about process improvement, ask questions and encourage dialogue.

5. Show Appreciation

Give kudos to achievers to keep teams interested in process improvement. You could institute recognition programs, like an award for the most innovative improvement suggestion or the process of the week.

Some organizations make it personal and set up dashboards identifying their most frequent process users — and those who seldom engage.

6. Be Clear About Expectations

Teams are more likely to get involved with continuous improvement initiatives if they have proper training, ongoing support and the resources they need to participate. Train new employees as part of the onboarding process to ensure that your expectations around process management disciplines are clear. Some organizations provide ongoing support by holding drop-in sessions where users can have their questions answered by a process champion.

7. Make Process Improvements Enjoyable

Many companies appeal to people’s competitive instincts by holding competitions, both within teams and across the entire organization. Because staff engagement in process improvement can be difficult to maintain, some businesses have tried to make it fun by creating games like process sprints or virtual scavenger hunts in which clues are hidden within processes.

If all else fails, a small incentive may be all it takes to drive motivation and participation. To encourage staff, some organizations have instituted process improvement incentives such as pizza or ice cream parties, movie ticket giveaways or, in some cases, cash bonuses.

Ultimately, you’ll need to choose an approach that works best for your organization. But remember, without the love, affection and involvement of your teams, the success of your process improvement efforts will be limited.