Improving one’s skills is one of the most important lessons in growth, but how does it work in a business? Creating a culture of continuous improvement is often seen as one of the changes that modern day companies should embrace, but what does it really mean? Can you really rally the workforce to improve the organisation altogether, while helping the people inside as well?
Making it a culture
For most employees, the nine-to-five is just seen as the typical work day. You get up, go to your job, do the things you need to, and go home. Rinse and repeat for the next five days. Get a break for two and do it again. The cycle continues and the skills they use are always the same. But your employee is more capable than that. When they’re not at work, they have passions that they grasp with a closed fist, running with them into the wind. Their skills are constantly changing as they embrace new technology in their lives, and dedicate a portion of their own self-improvement efforts on their own existence.
Self-improvement is normal for most people outside of the workplace. It can be as simple as learning about a new area that interests them, or something more difficult like learning a language or going back to school. Improvement is something that makes human growth interesting, and we’re always learning, so why not embrace it and make it a culture for the workplace?
It’s all about the leadership
In the office, the need to improve one’s workforce never stops. It’s not like training to use a new payroll system, but rather a constant evolution. It’s about the little things an employer can do to be better, and the things that can bring everyone together and improve everything. Organisational improvement helps to breed a culture of continuous improvement by encouraging everyone to rank up, to learn new skills that can help them achieve the best results not just for the company and its projects, but for their own personal skills, potentially helping them later in life. It can start with a four-step methodology to start the process, but it helps to have solid and engaged leadership, helping workers to believe that this won’t just benefit their workday and company, but their own well-being. Engaging leaders can effectively do more with less, setting goals for the entire workforce to commit to, as opposed to isolating individuals and encouraging a segregated approach to improvement.
For a culture of continuous improvement to exist, organisational improvement has to work with leadership to be as one. Everyone comes together to work on things, on skills, on the ways we can all become a better resource and be more productive overall. Consider talking openly with workers, frequently opening the floor for ideas to help teams feel as if they’re on the same level as management. These ideas should affect everything, instead of being concerned with just ROI or the bottom line; open it up and see what happens. Ideas need to be spread and the employee relationship needs to feel that the leadership team is listening. Engaged leadership is necessary to even ensure this culture can take off, to even hope the program can deliver.
How a culture of continuous improvement gets results
And deliver it can. It won’t be immediate, but organisational improvement can lead to business improvement. One of the most cited examples of the culture of continuous improvement in action stems from the term "kaizen", a Japanese word that is considered a methodology and philosophy to encourage everyone to be involved in the improvements.
In Japan, Toyota has embraced kaizen and the culture of continuous improvement for years, taking the initiative to make the company better while investing in its workers. It’s helped to keep the company alive amidst one of the most competitive times for a car manufacturer, and it’s this reasoning that has led to business improvement at the company. It can take time, but it can happen, you just need to start, often with an outside consultant that can initiate the process, kick-starting the culture of continuous improvement across the company. Alternatively, consider an organisation redesign, working to make the company different from the inside out.