Saturday, June 04, 2016

Employee Engagement - The Importance of Quality

The June topic of ASQ's A View from the Q blog is about employee engagement; specifically, ... to what extent do organizations—whether your current employer or previous ones–engage employees about the importance of quality?

“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.” Employee engagement is the key to activating a high performing workforce.
Doug Conant
former Campbell’s Soup CEO

Before one can discuss employee engagement we need to begin from an operational definition. Engagement is more than satisfaction. Baldrige Criteria defines workforce engagement as, "the extent of workforce commitment, both emotional and intellectual, to accomplishing the work, mission and vision of the organization. Organizations with high levels of workforce engagement are often characterized by high-performing work environments in which people are motivated to do their utmost for the benefit of their customers and for the success of the organization." In other words, when the workforce (employees, volunteers, partners, etc.) is engaged it uses discretionary effort.

Studies have shown that an engaged workforce leads to improved organizational performance and outcomes. (See also the "Engagement-Profit Chain").


With an operational definition in hand, to what extent should organizations engage their workforce about quality? Item 5.2 of the Baldrige Criteria speaks directly to Workforce Engagement. The basic requirement asks how the organization engages its workforce to achieve a high-performing work environment. Suggested areas to address include organizational culture, identification of engagement key drivers, assessments of engagement indicators, performance management (e.g. customer focus, intelligent risk taking and innovation), workforce and leader development, learning and development effectiveness, and career progression.

It is my experience (34 years with 3M; 30+ years as an ASQ member; 7 years as a Baldrige Evaluator) that employee engagement cannot be sustained without a strong focus on the customer. Customer engagement is all about quality: quality of our knowledge about the customer, quality of the supply chain, internal work processes quality, product quality, service quality, transactional quality, and quality of customer relationships. Indeed, customer experience is the result of one's end-to-end value stream performance. 3M Quality is customer-focused process and product understanding. 3M culture can be summed by the McKnight Principles where employee empowerment, teamwork, intelligent risk taking and innovation are encouraged and rewarded, and nurtured with training, development, coaching and mentoring. 3M Values proudly enumerate "quality" as an expectation. 3M Quality is not a slogan, it is a way of life.

Finally, several tools exist to help organizations assess its workforce engagement, and measure the financial impact of workforce engagement to its bottom line. For example, Gallup has developed a 12 Question pulse survey instrument to help organizations assess the key drivers of employee engagement. It is said there are 4 main aspects to consider when calculating the ROI of employee engagement:
  • Productivity
  • Absenteeism
  • Turnover
  • Speed of Onboarding
(Source: Officevibe. *Example only. This is not an endorsement of Officevibe or its ROI Calculator).

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