Friday, October 21, 2016

How to Integrate the Younger Workforce into Quality

A couple weeks back I was asked by ASQ to present my thoughts on the Future of Quality: How organizations can better integrate the younger workforce into the Quality profession. My response equally applies to all members of the workforce, and is the culmination of my 34 years experience with 3M Company, 30 years as a member leader in ASQ, and 7+ years experience as a Baldrige Examiner.

Using the Baldrige Criteria as the framework for my discussion, there are two Items (1.1 and 5.2) that specifically apply to the issue of organizational sustainability and workforce engagement:

Item 1.1 "Senior Leadership"
  • How do senior leaders’ personal actions guide and sustain your organization?
  • How do senior leaders’ actions build an organization that is successful now and in the future?
Item 5.2 "Workforce Engagement"
  • How do you foster an organizational culture that is characterized by open communication, high performance and an engaged workforce?

Organizational alignment begins with a shared vision, mission and values.

Senior leaders' role to better integrate the workforce into the Quality profession starts by communicating the purpose and critical importance of quality to overall organizational success. Next, senior leaders must elevate the value of an assignment in Quality - with demonstrated contributions - to individual advancement / career progression. Systems and structures that support individual development and career advancement in Quality roles must be institutionalized to assure organizational-wide deployment effectiveness.

Below are some suggestions on how your organization might strengthen workforce integration into Quality while increasing employee engagement overall to achieve high performance and organizational excellence.

1. Build and nurture commitment to Mission, Vision and Values. Then define Behaviors required for excellence.
  • Senior leaders define desired Leadership Behaviors important to the success of the organization. 
  • Senior leaders must model the desired Leadership Behaviors everyday, in every interaction, to build credibility and assure congruence of words and actions.
  • A system of measurement and rewards must be developed and institutionalized to identify, reinforce and motivate the desired Leadership Behaviors

2. Determine the key drivers of workforce engagement to achieve high performance:
  • Senior leaders must create a culture of trust, respect, integrity and ethics
  • Senior leaders must nurture open, honest 2-way communications with the workforce
  • The organization should increase the customer focus of every employee
  • Senior leaders should seek to determine the factors given their organization's culture that increase workforce engagement
  • Systems and processes that encourage innovation and reward intelligent risk taking should be implemented
  • Periodically and regularly survey your workforce on engagement progress (e.g. "Pulse" surveys).

3. Demonstrate career path options for Quality:
  • Integrate Quality principles (and disciplines?) into all operations
  • Champion career progression in Quality
  • Sponsor and reinforce the acquisition and application of new knowledge & skills
  • Intentionally promote from Quality into the other functions and departments, and vice-versa.

4. Leaders participate in succession planning and employee development:
  • Leaders teach leaders
  • Enable the "Everyone a Problem Solver" mindset
  • Provide career broadening opportunities for employees in Quality
  • Institutionalize organizational learning to collect and disseminate new knowledge and best practices
  • Promote mentoring and coaching; experiment with reverse-coaching where the new / younger employee coaches a senior leader in some area of identified need (i.e. social media tools, improving communication methods/style with Millennials, etc.)

With the 2016 World Quality Month fast approaching, I encourage the reader to discuss with his/her organization how have they considered the needs of the younger generation members of its workforce in its preparations for World Quality Month?