Not long ago I wrote about people’s attitude and work ethic. I think Labor Day is a good time to take a look at how and why people extend themselves as part of how they approach their work.
The US Department of labor just published the top reasons that employees considered their work place a positive experience. I was surprised that compensation and benefits barely made the top five reasons. I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised that was the number one reason for a positive experience was co-workers and feeling a part of something greater than themselves, a team.
As I have said previously I spent a lot of my career working for and with ex-military, many of them Marine Corp Senior line officers. One man in particular was responsible for growing me from a middle –manager to an executive. I have always remembered what he told me about why Marines fight. Duty, honor and country are certainly factors but not enough to get people under extreme circumstances to take the amazing risks and extraordinarily courageous acts that people have faced in combat since cavemen began throwing stones at each other. “When all is said and done, soldiers fight for the soldier next to them”. There is a famous poem from the Civil War called “I Fights Mit Siegle”. It is about a battle weary and bloodied soldier who is staggering doggedly forward back into the fray. Clearly wounded, he just keeps muttering to the men who try to stop him, “I fights mit Siegle.” The soldier a German immigrant fighting for both his adopted country and his unseen comrade Siegle finally falls and lays dying. The other soldiers do not know him but recognize his loyalty and courage. They begin to tend the Unknown Soldier as part of their larger family. You can find the same message in Henry the Fifth, “We brave and happy few. We band of brothers!”
People in the workplace are exactly the same. When they are empowered and trust their leaders to command and lead from a place of good faith, remarkable things happen. We all want to make a decent living and to care for our families but at the end of the day our paystub is only a small part of what feeds our soul. In a healthy organization, people want to have an impact and be heard. They don’t need to run the plant but they want a meaningful role in events.
Here are just a few areas where a team approach with invested participants can generate amazing returns:
Take a team approach to creating and changing documentation. The output will almost certainly be closer to reality and what can actually be accomplished with current equipment and circumstances.
Include area employees in reviews of audit results and findings; especially third party audits by Registrars and customers. You will be impressed by the sense of ownership and pride they will exhibit for their turf and responsibility.
Encourage design suggestions and respond to each one with concrete reasons why they can’t be adopted and give very visible credit when they are adopted.
Create “Tiger Teams” to take on stubborn and repetitive problems. Make sure the teams reflect a broad cross-section of the organization. You will get a very different perspective than you might get from a group made up entirely of management and engineers. This is especially true for teams taking on warranty and Customer Complaints.
Have line workers participate in analysis of line layouts, material feeds and workflow, along with the Production Engineers. This sort of team make-up has been proven to reduce repetitive motion and ergonomic injuries and to improve through-put.
Publishing select metrics and edited Management Review Meeting Minutes and Quality Objectives gets everyone focused on the same goals and milestones.
Having experienced workers mentor and train newer employees is a wise use of resources and can foster a sense of commraderie. These relationships endure and valuable tribal knowledge is preserved.
Even something as simple as regular pizza meetings with everyone or in smaller groups to keep people in the loop and assure they are heard has several benefits. It drives a stake in the heart of the insidious rumor machine. It can also provide an important barometer of what your employees are concerned about. It is expensive and destructive to lose major contributors over perceived issues that are not grounded in reality or facts. Sometimes a simple conversation can make all the difference. Make sure that you are taking care and listening to your most valuable assets, the people who make up your organization. Be a clear eyed leader and care for that person next to you in the trenches every day. Earning their trust and loyalty is precious capital not to be squandered.
As you can see, including and empowering your employees to execute your leadership vision through activities you must address for your ISO 9001 compliance, can strengthen the bonds and relationships on your teams.