My friend, Cindy (A baby boomer), worked for Fort Howard Paper Company in Green Bay for 40 years after graduating from high school. She packed toilet paper eight hours a day, five days a week. While it wasn’t the most fascinating job, she didn’t hate it. She liked most of her co-workers and she was making a good wage. Back then, workers didn’t expect much more from their jobs. They did what their supervisors told them to do and they did their jobs how their supervisors told them to do it. Most workers weren’t asked for their input into the processes. Cindy was a loyal employee; but let’s be honest, she didn’t feel a real connection to the company — she felt a connection to her paycheck.
Workers today want more and Millennials are leading the change. I don’t know why some are making that out to be a bad thing. Millennials aren’t looking for a fuzzy feel-good work experience. They want more responsibility and more involvement. They want to feel a connection to their organization. They want to be trusted and respected.
Most Millennials grew up being coached in sports and directed in many other activities, so they look for appropriate onboarding and guidance when they begin a new job. They want to be part of an organization with a clear vision, solid values and definite measureable goals to achieve. They want leaders to communicate how their work is connected to the achievement of those goals; and therefore, how their work brings value to the overall success of the organization. They look for training opportunities to continually grow and learn, and they want to receive feedback about their progress. They want a sense of where their job leads. Since it’s been shown that organizations that provide these things to their team members have higher levels of productivity, fewer defects and quicker turnaround times, the fact that Millennials want more is good news for organizations.
Millennials are looking for the chance to give input, to collaborate, to be creative and solve problems. They want to know that the organization they work for is striving to be better today than it was yesterday, and they want to be part of the journey. They know that in order for an organization to compete and be the best, the team members have to push themselves to be better, and, there has to be a solid commitment to continuous improvement.
Organizations understand that continuous improvement grows the bottom line by increasing an organization’s innovation, competitiveness and profitability. Most organizations have implemented continuous improvement initiatives. However, these initiatives oftentimes fade away due to the fact that they don’t have full support from leadership and they are not aligned with the organization’s culture.
A culture of continuous improvement helps hiring
When you are interviewing someone, do you point out some of the continuous improvement initiatives that you have implemented, and share some of the issues that you are working to resolve? Do you explain to them how team members collaborate with each other to solve problems? Do you show them how team members can offer their input and how the organization shares information among the team members? Do you let them know what continuous improvement training opportunities will be available to them?
Continuous improvement can improve retention
During the process of a culture assessment, I interviewed a team member who drove a forklift. When I asked her if there were any particular aspects of her job that caused her stress, she told me that because there was not enough space to store materials, she couldn’t do her job as efficiently, and that caused stress.
Continuous improvement initiatives not only improve your processes, but they also reduce the amount of stress for team members, allow them to be more efficient, make them feel more empowered to create positive change, and give them greater job satisfaction.
Continuous improvement initiatives that involve problem-solving can improve team building by having people work together systematically to solve problems, and it can also identify future leaders by placing people in a secure atmosphere where they are able to demonstrate their strengths and express their creativity. The successes of the team will build confidence and pride among the team members.
Ask your current team members how your organization can enhance their continuous improvement initiatives. Ask how you can help them to better collaborate with each other and what additional training opportunities they would like to have.
Your continuous improvement vision and strategy must:
• Be authentic
• Be supported by leadership
• Be ongoing and implemented across the entire organization
• Involve EVERYONE in the process
Does your organization make it clear to potential and current team members that you are focused on a culture of continuous improvement that depends on team member input? Millennials want to know that their input is welcomed and valuable. They want to know that the organization they work for is committed to innovation and growth, to sustainability, to making a difference to the customers and to the community — and they want to be a part of that. This will give your team members a sense of purpose.
When you take actions that support your vision and commitment to continuous improvement, you will create a culture of continuous improvement that will build a connection between your organization and the team members that goes beyond the paycheck. You will improve retention and you will help your organization attract and hire new people.
Mary Townsend is a culture and engagement specialist/owner with THRIVE, LLC, a workforce consultancy based in Green Bay.