Thriving businesses know that a culture of quality is imperative to survival in the face of today's rapidly changing business environment. Effective quality control methods and continuous process improvement are no longer simply trends that help organizations in the loop stand out, but in fact required elements to stay competitive in the modern market. Everyone from top level CEO's to owners of local Mom and Pop stores have begun, or are continuing, to find and implement every possible method to improve performance and process quality in general. As a quality technician for a major biomedical equipment manufacturing firm, I have personally witnessed how a well-run quality management program can mean the difference between a successful enterprise or simply being dead in the water. While the country still struggles with a turbulent economic recovery, consumers are keeping a close eye on their wallets, meaning that businesses want to convince customers to loosen their purse strings, they will have to ensure they are able to offer products and services at the level of quality the modern consumer has come to expect.
With the goal of total quality commitment in mind, employers should remember that the basis of all their operations comes down to the employees themselves. Simply put, without the right people to drive the organizations, the wheels simply do not turn. Everyone from the most highly educated managers down to recent graduates and new hires have a part to play in their organization's success or failure. As such, it should be apparent that while the quality control department is a very important part of any organization, it is the responsibility of every employee to drive continuous process improvement and maintain a culture of total commitment to quality. This of course does not mean that employees simply clock in for the day, do their jobs and leave. Every employee should take a genuine interest in establishing this culture of quality within the workplace, and strive for constant improvement within the organization. To establish this kind of culture, however, requires inspiration. Employees should not have come to work thinking "another day, another dollar", but should be continuously assured that what they contribute to organization is truly important and appreciated.
The purpose of this article is to give managers some basic ideas on motivating their employees towards establishing and maintaining a culture of quality. While every organization is different, the different methods I will present here are practices that I have seen used successfully in organizations I have worked for and ones that I feel could benefit just about any organization looking to establish a culture of quality within their employee base. These are merely meant to be guidelines and should be no means limit the creativity of the reader to those suggestions listed here. It is hoped that the reader will be able to glean some ideas and in turn arrive at their own innovative ideas tailor-made to suit the needs of their organization. First on the list, a popular employee incentive that is very well known is the employee of the month program. While it may seem old and overused to some, having a monthly employee recognition program, coupled with a small reward can be an excellent motivator for not only encouraging healthy competition and increased participation from employees but also provides an incentive to sustain a high level of performance . To add a little kick, offer employees a small reward such as a $ 20 gift card to a local restaurant or coffee shop. Additionally, this can be taken a step further by hosting a raffle every quarter in which a previous winner is randomly drawn and given a greater reward than previously, say a gift card worth twice as much as the initial drawing prize. Another idea for motivating employees is to encourage top-level managers to take time to tour work facilities and hold motivational town halls with employees on site. This shows employees at your site that upper management notices and appreciates their contributions. In addition, this gives top-level managers an opportunity to meet face-to-face with employees, listening to their concerns and making an effort to answer questions or, if an answer is not immediately available, to give assurance that their questions will be noted and addressed as soon as reasonably possible.
As human beings we all have a need to feel that we have accomplished something, that we have a purpose in the things we do. Generally, no one wants to feel that they are just a face without a name. Be sure to recognize your employees when they reach a milestone that they have worked long and hard for. This could be anything from staying with the company for a certain period of time, obtaining a degree or certification, even important personal dates such as birthdays and anniversaries. It does not hurt to treat your employees to dinner once in a while. It does not need to be anything too fancy, just let your employees know that the company is behind them in all their personal and professional efforts and recognizes the contributions they make and the goals they achieve.
Employee motivation does not always rely on monetary gifts or big public events. One simple token of appreciation is to recognize employees on the manufacturing floor who, in the spur of the moment, demonstrate character traits such as leadership, commitment to quality, integrity, and so on. This simple gesture can boost morale and provide a standard that employees will strive for. If you want to take it a step further, one employee recognition tool that was used in a plant in which I have worked is to give a small button to an employee that recognizes these traits (almost like that little gold star we all remember from grade school). Instead of simply receiving the button, however, an employee who receives recognition is entered into a monthly drawing for a small perk, such as an inexpensive gift card, a reserved parking space, etc. This is where you can be creative with the virtual limitless low-cost incentives you can offer to your workforce.
Keeping your employees in the right mindset and directing their focus towards establishing a culture of quality is not something that will simply happen overnight. As a manager, you must invest in your employees as they are your most important assets. Using the ideas listed here are just a few of many possible techniques managers can use to instill a sense of pride and belonging in their employees and let them know that their contributions are vital to organizational success. Follow these ideas, or create your own, and in time you will see an overall increase in morale and productivity, along with the establishment of a culture of quality and pride in belonging among your most important assets: your employees.