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Continuous Improvement in the new workplace environment

July 2022 Issue

The Leading Edge

Asset 6 (2)

Continuous improvement in the new workplace environment

--02 (11)

Seldom have leaders looking to plan the financial year ahead, been confronted with such a complex and vastly different personal, workplace, business and political landscape. Under a new Federal Government, we are entering this financial year 2022/23, faced with the following significant local and international issues and pressures that will both influence our decisions and have a major impact on our results and viability.

  Runaway inflation for the first time in 15 years

  Rapidly rising interest rates for the first time in 10                years

  Worldwide circumstances which are creating:
  • Surging petrol prices which in turn are fuelling inflation
  • Challenges to our supply chain with shortages of many key essentials leading to further price increases

  The unpredictability and increasing costs of energy

 The lowest unemployment levels for several decades         leading to:
  • Strong demand for extensive wage increases in both private and government sectors
  • Difficulty in finding enough new employees in general, and enough qualified new employees in particular
  • The very real risk of losing existing employees

Runaway inflation for the first time in 15 years

Rapidly rising interest rates for the first time in 10 years

Worldwide circumstances which are creating:
  • Surging petrol prices which in turn are fuelling inflation
  • Challenges to our supply chain with shortages of many key essentials leading to further price increases

The unpredictability and increasing costs of energy

The lowest unemployment levels for several decades         leading to:
  • Strong demand for extensive wage increases in both private and government sectors
  • Difficulty in finding enough new employees in general, and enough qualified new employees in particular
  • The very real risk of losing existing employees

Individual workers and leaders alike are unable to control, or even influence, many of these significant issues and pressures. However, as discussed in April’s Leading Edge article “The Great Resignation (Part 2)” leaders can, and must, proactively address the current situation in the employment market.

Most leaders are aware of the difficulty in finding and recruiting quality new people. They are also conscious of the massive threat of losing their existing good people. In fact, retention of top talent must be a major focus for all leaders in the 6 to 12 months ahead. But not the only focus. They must also focus on preparing themselves and their teams for success in this new “Next Generation” workplace and business world.

To cope and succeed in this new workplace environment, both leaders and their people must develop their agility, innovation and ability to adapt. In other words, they must make the significant commitment to build continuous improvement thinking and action into every aspect of their operations. This commitment is what the Leading Edge will focus on, in both this and future editions.

The content of the articles in this and future editions will relate to continuous improvement in four different aspects of life:

1.
Personal Life Balance

Ensuring you achieve the balance and quality of life with your friends, loved ones and family.

2.
Leadership Dexterity

Continuously developing your leadership capabilities.

3.
Team

Upskilling and developing your individual team members and your overall team.

4.
Systems and Processes

Improving the efficiencies in all aspects of your team’s operations.

Improvement in any of these four aspects will positively influence both your personal and professional situation in the coming year. This edition and future editions will include articles to assist you as you start your journey for the new financial year.

In this edition

– Three feature articles on the nature and benefits of Continuous Improvement for individuals, teams, departments and organisations:
  • Are You at Risk of Losing Any of Your People?
  • An update on The Great Resignation including key insights from LMA’s recent Special Edition of the Leadership Employment and Direction (L.E.A.D.) Survey.
  • Six Key Ways to Foster Innovation and Continuous Improvement

– A Client Profile of AL-KO – one of LMA’s/Think Perform’s current clients that has enjoyed success in Continuous Improvement through partnering with us.

– The next of the “15 Most Common Mistakes Managers Make” related to change and improvement – Resisting Change

– A showcase of LMA and Think Perform courses and programs focused on Continuous Improvement.

Do you know whether or not one or more of your people will walk into your workplace next week or the week after and say, “I’m off, I’ve got a better job offer”?

You may be unpleasantly surprised that in LMA’s recent Leadership Employment and Direction (L.E.A.D.) Survey:

  • 54% of employees indicated that they have considered looking for a job in another organisation
  • 22% of employees have actively looked for a job in another organisation
  • 11% of employees have applied for a job in another organisation

In the “Great Resignation (Part 3) – Impacts and Actions” article that follows, the same survey highlights that 73% of all employees would prefer to develop and grow with their current employer. However, only 59% percent believe they can do so.

The survey also indicated the Top Four Reasons for employees remaining with their current organisation are:

  1. Salary increases
  2. Opportunities for career advancement
  3. Opportunities for training and development
  4. Flexible working hours

Interestingly, the same Top Four Reasons are also cited when seeking alternative employment with a different organisation.

With the direct and indirect costs associated with the departure of an employee, and having to find and train a replacement, varying between eight months’ salary for operational workers  up to 18 months’ salary for supervisors or managers, retaining good staff is an exceptionally important aspect of a leader’s role. So, please ask yourself the following five questions:

  1. Do you know if any of your people are considering or looking for alternative job offers?
  2. Have you recently reviewed their current salaries and packages?
  3. Have you recently discussed their career development goals and aspirations with them?
  4. Have you recently asked them about any training or development they would like to undertake?
  5. Have you recently identified the best “Win-Win” in terms of flexibility offered in their working arrangements?

Suggestions:

  • If the answer to any one of these is “No”, then you have a potential risk and should start thinking now about how best to address the situation.
  • If the answer is “No” to any two or more, then you have multiple risk areas and must act now to resolve the identified gaps.

The start of the new Financial Year provides an ideal opportunity to set up a time to review the year ahead with each of your team members. In the process you can find out where each of them stands in relationship to the five questions identified above.

When conducting this type of review discussion with your team, be sure to:

  • Prepare for the meeting by obtaining the most up-to-date information about each team member and the team overall
  • Position the meeting as a positive approach to planning for the year ahead – a Win-Win opportunity for all
  • Listening actively and attentively to your people – be tuned in to their needs and aspirations
  • Be aware of your own body language and observe and respond appropriately to the body language of team members
  • Document agreed actions and plans in a positive fashion
  • Follow-through with individuals and the team via further review meetings as needed

Above all else – MAKE SURE YOU KEEP YOUR GOOD PEOPLE!

We live in a world of constant change. Organisations must continually improve, innovate and change to meet the demands of an ever-changing landscape. COVID has delivered a multitude of challenges and even greater focus on the strategies needed to address them.

LMA’s recent special edition of the Leadership Employment and Direction (L.E.A.D.) Survey highlights just how significant the impacts of COVID have been and the challenges facing employers in attracting and retaining staff to sustain operations. Some of the key statistics from the survey include:

  • A 21 percentage-point increase in employees working partially remotely/from home post-COVID (31% now working in this way compared to 10% pre-COVID) – a three-fold increase in this type of working arrangement.
  • The Top 5 biggest impacts of COVID have been in the following areas:
    • Attracting and retaining sufficient staff to operate (60%)
    • Maintaining production / manufacturing / productivity (35%)
    • Addressing supplier/provider issues (31%)
    • Maintaining sales and revenue (27%)
    • Managing and supporting employee mental health (25%)
  • The majority of organisations (83%) are experiencing skills shortages in one or more areas. The key shortages are reported in the following areas:
    • Operations (32%)
    • Trade skills (32%)
    • Process workers (30%)
    • Unskilled labour (30%)
    • Leadership (25%)
  • In terms of career development and growth:
    • 73% of employees would prefer to develop and grow with their current employer, 27% would prefer to develop with a different employer or employers
    • 59% believe they are more likely to develop by staying with their current employer, 41% believe they would need to move to a different employer to achieve this development
  • The main reasons for remaining with a current organisation OR seeking alternative employment are the same:
    • Salary increases
    • Opportunities for career advancement
    • Opportunities for training and development
    • Flexible working hours
  • Importantly, leaders and managers are comfortable and willing to provide these four aspects to varying degrees to attract or retain the right people as follows:
    • Salary increases
    • Opportunities for training and development
    • Opportunities for career advancement
    • Flexible working hours
  • The average maximum pay increase to attract the right personnel is 23.3%.

If your organisation is experiencing some of these same challenges, consider reviewing your approach to attracting and retaining personnel and adjust as needed.

Fostering innovation and continuous improvement in your team not only provides a terrific opportunity to tap into your people and their talents, it also assists greatly in attracting and retaining suitable personnel. To foster innovation and continuous improvement, consider adopting the following approaches:

  1. Set challenging goals

Most organisations set incremental improvement goals to do a little better. There’s nothing wrong with incremental improvement. Obviously, these goals are important and integral to achieving continuous improvement. However, to inspire innovation, set stretch goals that can only be achieved by doing things differently.

  1. Create a sense of urgency

It’s only when you urgently need to create something new that you start to look for different solutions. Think back to the incredible innovation and changes in response to the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic in 2020. Remember the saying “Necessity is the mother of invention”. Set goals with target dates that build a sense of urgency.

  1. Tear down barriers to communication

Innovation does not happen in isolation. Creative ideas are born and developed through interaction with others. Many of the best innovations are simply new ways to combine existing ideas. Create opportunities for people to interact with each other, especially across departments, divisions and teams.

  1. Eliminate the fear of making mistakes

Fear is the number one enemy of innovation. Fear keeps people from trying new things or even suggesting new ideas. Build a climate of support and trust. Encourage people to experiment with new ways and ideas. Let them know that it’s OK if at first, they fail or experience setbacks. It’s only through trial and error that many new innovations and improvements occur. Remember Edison failed over 9,000 times before he eventually invented the electric light bulb. Encourage different opinions and views on the way things should be done. Actively seek out problems as they often contain the seed of a new opportunity.

  1. Make everyone responsible for innovation

Ask your team members for ideas or suggestions on how to improve or change the processes, systems or communications within your team and organisation. Don’t just ask once or twice, ask consistently. Eventually, team members will start to think creatively and look for potential innovations. Respond positively to all ideas, even if they aren’t implemented. Give credit and recognition to team members for their creative thinking. Entrust them with the responsibility to innovate and implement the change activities or improvement plans.

  1. Demonstrate your confidence and trust

Communicate your confidence in the individuals and the team as a whole, to strive for innovation, improvement and higher performance. Show them that you are willing to trust their judgment. When you give them opportunities to exercise initiative, you motivate and empower them to seek innovative ideas and achieve higher and higher performance goals. Recognise team members for their successes. Also encourage and support them to learn from their setbacks and to keep trying.

The future of your team’s performance depends on new ideas, suggestions and creativity for continuous improvement from all team members.

Success in implementing continuous improvement at…

For over fifty years, AL-KO has been one of the leading Australian trailer & caravan parts manufacturers dedicated to product innovations and quality to deliver the world’s safest trailers, caravans and motorhomes.

Throughout 2021-22, AL-KO Australia engaged LMA and its process improvement division, Think Perform, to plan and implement two significant programs – one focused on leadership and management development, the other focusing on system and process improvement and culture change. The programs took place at AL-KO’s two main Victorian sites – Campbellfield and Dandenong South.

A total of 25 team leaders, supervisors and department heads completed LMA’s Success Strategies for Team Leaders and Supervisors program (Certificate III in Business). The program provided a vast array of tools, techniques, ideas, concepts and opportunities to develop and grow leadership and management skills in these current and future leaders. LMA’s lead Facilitators Vali Ghobadi and Adrian Goldsmith oversaw a successful program which included regular workshops on each site, connected by Zoom interface and with the support of Manager/Mentors.

A total of 51 team leaders, supervisors, operators and others also completed the Certificate III in Competitive Systems and Practices (4) Certificate IV in Competitive Systems and Practices (11) and Certificate IV in Process Manufacturing (36). The program enabled analysis and insights about all aspects of the production process. Participants identified waste, process improvement opportunities and numerous projects to drive efficiency and productivity. The program was overseen by lead Facilitator Jela Martinovic with the support of Martin Schembri.

Pictured below are some of the lean initiatives implemented and the key people involved in implementation:

                                   

Estimates of Return on Investment are still being calculated but benefits are expected to reach hundreds of thousands of dollars on both sites and more importantly, be sustainable for years/decades to come. Importantly, the “fifth S” in the 5S process is sustainability. The key focus for all programs in sustaining efforts, processes and results to deliver ongoing benefit.

If you’re interested in hearing more above LMA’s leadership and management programs or Think Perform’s lean-based system and process improvement programs, please contact your LMA/Think Perform representative.

Mistake Number 2 – RESISTING CHANGE

Openness to change is a state of mind that frequently eludes managers. As they busy themselves with the day to day running of the organisation, they often forget that the outside world is still there, providing an ever-present need for change.

Over many years, surveys conducted by LMA have shown that far from being scared or intimidated by change, employees are highly adaptable and have become quite used to change. So much so that they see change as the norm.

Yet many managers resist change, close their minds to change and do their level best to maintain the status quo. Surprisingly, they often do this to the detriment of the growth and evolution of their employees and the organisation.

So, what leads managers to make this mistake?

Managers are prone to avoiding change for several reasons. Sometimes it’s because they think the team won’t be able to adapt and ground will be lost. Other times they can’t see the benefit of change and view it as a waste of time – theirs and their team’s. 

Some managers resist change because it may show up their own inadequacy…they believe they may not have the skills or knowledge to manage under changed circumstances. Others feel that their position or power will be threatened. Many simply feel a lack of confidence in leading change.

One common feature in all these situations is the failure to see the potential within the change….to see the possibility of a different approach that will produce better outcomes.

A mind closed to change often results in disillusionment amongst team members as they seemingly ‘bang their heads against a brick wall’.

“Ron the Resister” was like this…so paralysed by the fear of what could go wrong that he was never able to imagine what could go right.  As a result, he never changed.  What did change, however, was his team…one by one they got tired of his resistance, and they left.

So, what are some of the alternatives to avoid this mistake?

Change should be accepted by managers as a way of life…an integral part of the role of leading and managing.  Change should be looked upon as an opportunity for continuous improvement, not a threat.

The concept of continuous improvement has been around for many years now and the ability to lead and manage improvement has become an essential skill of modern managers.

Managers could send a clear signal that suggestions for change and improvement are welcomed and anticipated, and that all employees have permission to engage with change in a positive way.

Leading people development courses have a strong focus on change leadership and management skills and processes…personal change in setting goals and organising time more effectively…change as a manager in understanding how people work…change for organisations in developing more effective leaders.

The key notion is that change is a good thing, not something to be avoided like the plague as “Ron the Resister” has been doing.

Among the many benefits of change is that it provides the opportunity for review, refinement and renewal.  When planned and implemented well, continuous improvement can give new enthusiasm and momentum to individuals and organisations.  The benefits that flow from change can infect teams with new energy and spark to achieve even more.

Getting into the ‘habit’ of planning, leading and implementing change is essential for effective leadership and management.  If a manager can learn to encourage change and work with it, they are more likely to experience a more engaged team and greater productivity.….

Change is everywhere and it is now a normal part of personal and organisational life…avoid becoming “Ron the Resister” so that the benefits of change can be experienced by all.

Modernised/updated leadership and lean programs

Throughout 2021 and early 2022, primarily in response to changes in the training packages that underpin our accredited programs, LMA has been updating and upgrading our main programs to ensure our Participants have an enjoyable experience with us – a Unique Learning Experience. All programs now draw on new and refreshed units of competency to provide courses that fulfil client needs and learner requirements.

Our consultation with industry, includes interaction with, and feedback from, our Clients and Participants along with various external and internal surveys and evaluations. This information has told us that our courses provide practical approaches, well-researched and articulated content and a range of tools and techniques that deliver measurable results and a quantifiable return on investment (ROI).

The Challenge of Leadership program (Certificate IV in Leadership and Management) has been rewritten to provide a fresh, modern take on leadership development. Our High Performance Management program (Diploma of Leadership and Management) continues to be the pinnacle of our suite of development programs – aimed at senior leaders and those developing other leaders and managers. The Success Strategies for Team Leaders and Supervisors (Certificate III in Business) has undergone a significant revision to incorporate some very different units and topics to assist the emerging leader. And The Sales Edge (Certificate III in Business-to-Business Sales) provides solid foundations for sales skill development – for both experienced sales professionals and those taking their initial steps in the wonderful world of sales.

Our Think Perform programs continue to provide organisations with the knowledge and skills to minimise waste, develop better processes and streamline operations through enhanced flow. Programs in Warehousing Operations, Process Manufacturing and Competitive Systems and Practices provide organisations with flexibility in tailoring their investment in lean to maximise benefits. Our Diploma in Competitive Systems and Practices is well-advanced in development and when launched will offer Participants the chance to extend learnings from mainstream qualifications in the lean space (Certificate III and IV programs).

If you’re interested in hearing more about the range of accredited programs offered by LMA and Think Perform, please contact your LMA representative.

LMA Course Schedule for 2022

LMA’s Schedule of National Courses for the remainder of 2022 is available on the LMA website:
The LMA website (lma.biz) also provides further information about our range of accredited and non-accredited programs.

Our next edition features:
  • The leader’s role in building the environment for success – what actions are essential, how important is planning in driving success
  • The 15 Most Common Mistakes Managers Make – Number 3 – NOT DEVELOPING STAFF