Employee Engagement = Kaizen + Passion in the West Midlands (Ricoh Telford to be exact)

A while back when I was writing Kaizen! Toast v Beer, Who Wins? I came across this quote “continuous improvement is the result of continuous involvement”. I couldn’t remember where and ended up  searching absolutely loads of websites offering advice on Kaizen, Lean manufacturing and employee engagement, including a few where you can buy it as a motivational poster (Amazon $33.99).

As good as the quote is, I’d like to add in passion, West Midlands style, Ricoh in Telford to be exact.

Recently I visited the Ricoh factory in Telford as part of an IdeasUK networking event. Ricoh in Telford have a very good reputation, which includes their employee engagement.  Following the visit three things stand out for me about how Ricoh achieve this success; passion, trust and involvement. These factors are all fundamental to their employee engagement and Kaizen continuous improvement approaches.

Passion. I must admit that ‘passion’ wasn’t something I was expecting to encounter in a photocopier factory somewhere out west of Wolverhampton, but I did, in bucket loads. In fact I met Chris Nicholls the Manufacturing Division General Manager who is responsible for the company value of passion.

Organisational values in my experience are pretty pointless unless they are demonstrated through behaviours, particularly by leaders. Chris and his Continuous Improvement Team demonstrate passion completely. They have passion for continuous improvement, passion for delivering a better product to the customers and passion for helping the employees do the best job they can. This was totally evident in everything they said and did and rubbed off on everyone they encountered, including visitors.

Trust. Trust is a word that is frequently used in relation to employee engagement and continuous improvement. Easy to say, but hard to demonstrate. All I’ll say is that the approach I saw at Ricoh was completely based on trusting people. The expression, “you are the expert in your job, we trust you to do it’” was used on several occasions. It was fascinating watching how trust was demonstrated on the factory floor.  People would step in, help others, clean up, move potential blockages and just cover each others backs when they were busy. Total teamwork based on trusting your co-workers. The only other place where I’ve seen this level of trust and teamwork is in a Fire and Rescue Service.

Involvement. Involving people in their jobs as well as a wider continuous improvement mindset across the organisation is key to engagement.  Perhaps the most striking example I saw was of one of the warehouse workers who was given an award for the best improvement idea that month. That was great, but in fact he’d had more improvement ideas in total than anyone else on site that year. This was remarkable when you consider he was actually an agency worker on a temporary contract. It’s fantastic that you can get that depth of involvement and engagement from someone who’s with you on a temporary basis. So often you hear the opposite about ‘temps’ being disengaged.

Ricoh in Telford is an inspiring place and Chris Nicholls is putting some material together on the approach to engagement he’s developed there. It’s well worth following what he’s got to say on Twitter @ChrisNicholls12.

Back to the quote, I know it’s not terribly fashionable to like motivational posters (all a bit 1990’s) but I do like “continuous improvement is the result of continuous involvement”. I think it effectively sums up the link between employee engagement and Kaizen quite nicely. Throw in some passion and it would be perfect. Employee Engagement = Kaizen + Passion.

So, what’s the PONT?

  1. Continuous involvement (employee engagement) will deliver continuous improvement (Kaizen).
  2. Passion isn’t a word we use, or a behaviour we demonstrate enough in the workplace. Be passionate about what you do and you’ll probably achieve more.
  3. Trust people to do their jobs. They are the experts.

About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here: https://whatsthepont.com/churchill-fellowship/

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