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Making The Best Use of Your Employee Evaluation Findings Through Continuous Improvement
Why conduct employee satisfaction and workplace assessments? Ideally employers undertake these studies to gather and analyze the information necessary to ensure that employees at every level, and in all departments and jobs, have the training, information, time and support necessary to perform their jobs safely, effectively and efficiently. There are compelling findings about the positive return on investment experienced by companies that implement employee wellness initiatives, especially when based on quantitative and qualitative research findings (1). For example:
- The Coors Brewing Company reported a $5.50 return for every dollar spent on a wellness program, with an 18% reduction in absenteeism among program participants.
- An international soft drink company reported saving $500 annually per employee after implementing a fitness program, with 60% of all employees participating.
- Du Pont reported a reduction of 11,726 disability days by the end of the second year of the wellness program
- The City of Toronto reported that employees missed an average of 3.35 fewer days in the first six months of a fitness program than those not enrolled in the program.
- BC Hydro reported that employee turnover decreased from 10.3% to 3.5% following the implementation of workplace wellness and fitness programs.
Our own studies have confirmed a strong statistical correlation between levels of employee satisfaction and workplace stress, their rates of absenteeism and presenteeism, and their future employment intentions.
To ensure the best return on investment in your employee and workplace assessment, you must have a clear picture of why you are conducting a study at this point, and commit to creating and implementing a plan to address the study results. Continuous Improvement (CI) provides an excellent framework for facilitating positive changes in the workplace.
CI was developed by WD Deming as a means of modernizing Japanese industries after the Second World War. It focuses, in part, on “continuously” increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of all aspects of a company or organization (2). Many aspects of CI affect the culture and climate of the workplace, and the long-term commitments of employees to their employers. From a human resource perspective, CI can lead to improvements in communication, leadership, organizational processes and employee satisfaction.
CI is based on the concept that management actions are aimed at improvement and not just control; at creating change and not just maintaining performance.
At a CI company, employee wellness initiatives, programs or processes are subject to continuous improvement cycles. There are four steps in these cycles: Plan, Do, Study and Act (PDSA).
PLAN: A problem or concern is identified. The processes necessary to bring about change are developed. Goals, objectives, related activities and performance measures (ie, Logical Models) are established.
DO: A plan to achieve the desired results is implemented.
STUDY: The effects and results associated with the administration of this plan are measured against external benchmarks and/or previous performance.
ACT: The changes are either incorporated into your ongoing processes, or you return to the initial planning phase to create a new activity. This is a fictional case study to illustrate how an employee-based PDSA cycle might work in a manufacturing context. A company hired a new operations manager from another region. Within about six months there was an unexplained 9.7% increase in workplace accidents, and a 13.5% increase in absenteeism.
PLAN: A review of the HR data confirmed the increases in accidents and absenteeism. Confidential interviews were held with selected employees who felt that the new manager had made unilateral changes in changes and some key operational processes. These employees felt left out of the decision-making process, which was different from the way the previous manager made important decisions. Based on these interviews, an employee questionnaire was developed and administered. The study found that some employees felt unprepared and untrained to implement the new processes. They also felt that they were not appreciated by the new manager. These factors resulted in the improper use of the equipment by some employees, higher levels of stress at work, sleep deprivation, and conflicts at work and at home. This, in turn, caused some employees to be tired and distracted at work, and more prone to accidents. Higher absenteeism rates were reported by employees with the highest levels of stress. In response to these findings, the company, through a committee led by the new manager, sought input from the employees most affected by these changes in order to reduce accident rates and absenteeism, and improve relations at work.
DO: Some of the shift changes were reversed based on employee feedback. Training was instituted to bring employees up to speed with the new production processes and equipment.
STUDY: A follow-up study found that most of the negative factors associated with the changes were reduced or eliminated. This was confirmed by a statistically significant reduction in workplace accidents and reduced absenteeism. It also turned out that the new manager was not aware of the expectations of employees that they participate in decision-making at work, as this was not part of his previous experience. He began to see the employees in a new light, which made them feel more valued and engaged at work.
ACT: The changes made during the “Do” stage were permanently incorporated into the work process. Training is now provided for all new hires, and employees are consulted on key changes. As a result, higher rates of employee satisfaction, and a proportional decrease in workplace accidents and employee absenteeism, have been sustained over time.
(1) cf. http://naturalhealthcare.ca
(2) cf. “Ten Step Method To Continuous Improvement,” (Note: A modified version of this article will appear in the next edition of the Canadian Meat Magazine.)
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