Basic Business Cents: 'Workforce Focus' can up competitiveness
Are you proud of your workforce? Could they do better? Of course, none of us are perfect. So, how do we get from our present state to the new improved desired state? Would you believe the federal government can help?
The National Institute of Standards and Technology, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, manages the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. Their mission is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness and to that end they publish a book detailing criteria for performance excellence. It can be obtained free by calling 301- 975-2036 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category 5, Workforce Focus, provides some excellent food for thought.
The first element is to engage the workforce to enthusiastically perform to their highest level. First and foremost is to ensure good information flow, up, down and across the organization.
Keep people informed. Empower them to make changes needed. In order to do that, they must be adequately trained and trusted. That means get to know them and work with them.
People need to have meaningful work, which provides them with satisfaction of doing something worthwhile. The work must be enjoyable and provide opportunities to take pride in the outcome. The work should be aligned with the workers personal values.
The next element is to develop the workforce. The people must be enabled to do excellent work. Good professional training is always a necessity for good performance but one of the first budgets to be cut in periods of belt tightening is always training. Worker-training-worker is not the answer as can be demonstrated by the old game of whispering something into the ear of a string of people and asking them to pass it on to the next person. What comes out at the end has little relevance to what was whispered to the first person. Similar distortions occur with the worker-training-worker concept.
With the rapid advancements happening in the world today, people need to be continually learning. It can happen inside or outside the organization, in-person or distant, or by mentoring.
How the learning takes place doesn't really matter as long as learning is constant. Individuals should be counseled to identify their next position and training and education provided to prepare them.
The third element of workforce effectiveness is management. Clear direction of the desired outcome of the work must always be remembered. There are two parts to communication - sending and receiving. Using two of our senses is also key to communication, whenever possible, provide written form and oral explanation. The manager needs to practice active listening and to reinforce desired behavior with positive feedback. Trust and respect is absolutely essential, up, down and across the organization so it needs to always be on the mind of the manager.
The managers' main role is to innovate and improve capable processes that enable the workforce to take pride and satisfaction in their work. The workers role is to do the best they can within those processes.
By constantly focusing on improving engagement, development and management, a more productive, happier, and satisfied workforce will result.
Louis Schultz, managing director of Process Management LLC, has assisted organizations worldwide with performance improvement. He currently works with area business owners as a SCORE counselor. E-mail him with questions or comments at lou@process