Four Simple Ways to Improve Employee Performance

By on June 2, 2021
Four Simple Ways to Improve Employee Performance

Bill, an employee of a company for which I was providing continuous improvement consulting, once told me he had absolutely no interest in thinking about how to improve his work processes.

He said, “I clock in, do my work, and clock out. All I think about during the day is the end of the day. That’s it, so don’t waste your time talking to me about process improvements.

Bill was apathetic about his work and he was wasting his talents.

A month or so later, Bill came up to me and said he’d like to tell me something. He said he’d been sitting in his work area and by chance overheard some of his fellow workers talking about a problem they were having with their work. He told me he realized he knew how to solve the problem and went over and told them what the fix was. It worked. Then he said something I’ll never forget.

Bill said, “Doing this really felt good and I came to realize that not using my intelligence and creativity was wasting my life, that I spent most of my waking hours at work, that we only get one trip through life, and I didn’t want to waste mine.

In his words, the lesson Bill learned from this experience is that we owe it to ourselves to make full use of our capabilities, our intelligence, our creativity, and our knowledge in our trip through life.

Bill’s life-transforming experience could easily have not happened. It was one of those lucky, toss of the coin, things that change lives. If not for this chance encounter, Bill could have lived out his life at this company wasting his considerable abilities.

It wouldn’t have had to be this way. Bill’s company could have done four simple things that would have greatly increased the probability that he would have had the very powerful experience he had described to me.

Here are these four simple things, inexpensive initiatives that clients of mine have used to quick start changes in the thinking of employees like Bill:

  1. Put tent cards on tables in the cafeteria that on one side said, “Our company can’t succeed without your ideas on how to improve what we do.” And on the other side, printed a signed note from the CEO that said, “I really appreciate all the good work you do for our company.”
  2. Shot a short video of the CEO saying, “I really appreciate all of the good work you do for our company. I want all of you to know that without your hard work and great thinking, our company couldn’t possibly succeed.” Played the video in the employee cafeteria and at other locations throughout the plant.
  3. Sent handwritten notes from the Plant Manager to the homes of employees whose work was observed during regular walks taken around the plant, conversing one-on-one with line workers while soliciting their ideas on ways to improve work processes. The notes said how much each employee’s work was appreciated and valued.
  4. Developed a simple incentive program that provided managers and supervisors with “Thank You” cash in a variety of denominations that was given to employees when exemplary performance was observed. Several of my clients who used this simple and powerful motivational tool had company logoed merchandise catalogs and the “cash” was used to buy items from their catalog. Lacking this kind of catalog, other clients used loaded “Just Do It” gift cards from Nike.

A little recognition goes a long way. When employees are apathetic about their work, it’s often a sign they don’t feel their efforts or opinions matter. The four simple tools I’ve just described will help ensure that this doesn’t happen. With this shift in employee perception will come significant improvements in employee morale and employee performance.

And these four simple initiatives will drive the emergence of Bill-type experiences throughout the organization, including among the company’s leadership group. With this, continuous improvement will become a reality, not just an aspiration.

Does your organization need help in creating a sustainable continuous improvement culture? Our Corporate Services Group has resources that might be just what you need. To learn more about these resources call Eric Whitehead at 314-539-5022.

About George Friesen

George Friesen serves as Business Practice Leader - Lean Manufacturing for the Workforce Solutions Group of St. Louis Community College. He has led the College's Lean business practice area since 2000. Prior to joining the College, George worked for Maritz Performance Improvement Company. Over the past 35 years, he has served a wide variety of Fortune 500 companies, specializing during the past eleven years in Lean Manufacturing, focusing especially on the 5S System, Lean leadership and thinking processes, Value Stream Mapping, and Lean team building. George is a graduate of Washington University (AB), Webster University (MA), and United States Air Force Flight Training.

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