Monday, February 11, 2013

Workforce Buy-In: The Key to Sustaining Results


When you make operational changes to either become more efficient or to grow, it’s just as important that your team understands and embraces the importance of the changes. It’s also critical that employees have buy-in from the beginning of your planned improvements. Manufacturers sometimes overlook this step because they don’t want to interrupt productivity. We define workforce engagement as the level of discretionary commitment and effort employees exhibit at work. It gets beyond satisfaction and straight to the heart of motivation. If you’re thinking something along the lines of, “Well, building a new production line won’t impact person x for a while. I’ll prep person x at a later time so I don’t interrupt his/her productivity now,” you’re thinking is with the majority of manufacturers.   




Like many manufacturers in Michigan, you have two major priorities in 2013:


  1. Increase sales to grow your business.
  2. Become more efficient to reduce your costs.

This year, as you focus on these key issues, there are many ways to accomplish these objectives, including: conducting projects to generate more leads and diversify your market or implementing new initiatives to become more lean.

Although there are numerous avenues you can pursue to increase sales and reduce costs, all of the methods have one thing in common: the results of your improvement initiatives depend on your workforce. In an earlier blog post, we highlighted three important ways to strengthen your workforce. One of the things we listed was to ensure employee buy-in on projects. Employee buy-in isn’t just about improving employment engagement – it’s about ensuring sustainability and replication of improvement projects.


While this thought process is understandable, it’s imperative to secure employee buy-in on projects early on. Without buy-in, employees don’t fully understand why it’s so important to improve… they don’t see the value in changing. This has a “trickle down” effect - later on when it’s their turn to become a part of the change process, they don’t have the motivation to carry out your initiatives. They may participate in making improvements because of their assignments, but they may not necessarily fully embrace the projects… decreasing your chances of sustaining results.

Buy-in goes both ways, down the line to production and up the line to top management. To create a culture of improvement and innovation, it’s vital to get your management team involved and all headed in the same direction. As Harvard professor and bestselling leadership author, John Kotter, stated, “The process of change for any organization begins with getting senior leadership aligned around a big opportunity. If top leadership sees their organization’s large-scale opportunity and not just the problems clearly, they will be able to establish goals more clearly and more effectively communicate them throughout the organization.”

If you are planning on making changes to help your company grow this year, clearly conveying the issue at hand, the need for change and the path forward to your workforce is important. It creates awareness and implies that they are trusted members of the organization. The following elements provide a foundation for improving employee buy-in to and casting a vision for your change efforts:

  • Communication – You cannot communicate too much or too often.
  • Motivation – Explain why this will help them and the company.
  •  Integrity – Be open and honest. Solicit feedback and ask questions, in small groups or individually.
  •  Capability – Ensure the workforce has the skills necessary to support change. Train them if needed.

This year is a pivotal time for Michigan’s manufacturers. American manufacturing is becoming increasingly stronger. Now is the time to implement initiatives to improve efficiencies and grow sales. Your workforce will play a key part in helping you grow and succeed. If you would like more information on how to make 2013 an incredible year for your company, click here to see a list of our services.

 Image by CBIA

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