Employee Engagement moves Continuous Improvement Forward

Operational Excellence is a management methodology that focuses on the achievement of sustainable growth through enhanced focus, precision and continuous improvement. Continuous Improvement is an imperative for manufacturers, especially those within the CPG industry, due to the increase in global competitiveness.

The biggest challenge facing the CI success is employee engagement. CI requires additional work from all employees at all levels of the organization. As such, success will only be achieved if the organization can foster a culture that empowers, energizes and enables employees to constantly be looking for abnormalities and reporting suggestions.

This assertion is supported by numerous studies, which are listed and summarized below.

employee engagement in manufacturing

Employees Motivation and Openness for Continuous Improvement: Comparative Study in Polish and Japanese Companies


On the basis of the experience of the highly successful in continuous improvement companies, the authors of the work indicate the mechanisms behind an employee’s motivation which concern, among others,
respect for people.
Employees need to be meaningful and trusted, seen as individuals, be trained and educated as well as to gain authority and responsibility.

In the work the authors also indicate that enriching work and giving a person more responsibility can motivate people.

The following should be listed among others:

  • management involvement,
  • the management of the continuous improvement processes,
  • motivation of the workers,
  • setting the objective for continuous improvement and measuring the results,
  • building the culture of continuous improvement in the company,
  • Resources for continuous improvement,
  • cross-functional teams and methodology for sustaining continuous improvement similar to TPS.

The survey results presented in the work provide that the most influential on how a person is engaged in continuous improvement is management engagement and understanding of company’s goals as well as engaging people in goals setting. It is also important to support, explain the employees’ suggestion prioritizing and invest in such improvement suggestions.

In the work, the authors indicate that the three theories presented in the literature dominate
the motivation: goal-setting, social cognitive and organizational justice. According to employees are more motivated by tasks than by reward or punishment.

Work motivation should come from extrinsic and intrinsic issues although according to [31] better performance is obtained because of the intrinsic component, when an employee takes personal responsibility for his or her work and its quality.

Lean Manufacturing is based on continuous improvement and employees’ engagement in the identification of opportunities in order to improve processes and products.

What motivates employees to participate in continuous improvement activities?


Continuous improvement (CI) is still one of the strongest ways for companies to achieve process excellence in order to survive in nowadays’ competitive environments.

Yet, it is still very difficult to implement and sustain CI systems, mainly because of the difficulty in engaging people in these activities. Based on an exhaustive literature review, followed by a three-round Delphi study with Spanish experts, this paper helps to assess what the main elements are with respect to the CI system that could motivate employees’ intention to participate in CI activities.

Main results show 44 elements grouped into 10 factors that could affect employees’ intention to participate. These factors were structured into a more comprehensive model following an interpretive structural modelling approach.

Failure of Continuous Improvement initiatives in manufacturing environments: a systematic review of the evidence


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to present the core themes derived from literature that contribute to the failure of continuous improvement initiatives in the manufacturing industry. Design/methodology/approach: The approach taken was to complete a systematic review of literature, grouping the failure factors through the use of idea maps and affinity diagrams into the core themes reported. Findings: From the review it is evident that continuous improvement initiatives can fail due to a multitude of factors; but that these can be grouped under eight core themes. The themes found to contribute to the failure of continuous improvement initiatives are:

  1. Motives and Expectations,
  2. Organizational Culture and Environment,
  3. The Management Leadership,
  4. Implementation Approach,
  5. Training,
  6. Project Management,
  7. Employee Involvement Levels, and
  8. Feedback and Results.

These themes have been further categorized into a three-stage model. Research limitations/ implications: The review was carried out using a selection of high-quality journals, although this may have restricted the findings. The research is also limited to manufacturing, so it is unknown if the same factors impact initiatives in the service or public sectors. Continuous improvement is defined for the purpose of the study as TQM, Lean, and Six Sigma. Originality/value: From a practical perspective, the research findings create awareness for organizations of the complexity of organizational change in the form of continuous improvement implementation.

Management Initiation of Continuous Improvement from a Motivational Perspective


In the Hackman and Oldham (1980) motivational model, meaningfulness is one of three psychological states. It is built by skill variance, task significance, and task identity. Skill variance is defined as the extent to which the work demands different skills and knowledge. Task significance is defined as whether or not the work is important for the well-being of others. Task identity is about seeing the completeness of the tasks done for the job. It is the difference between forming stones and building a cathedral (Hackman and Oldham, 1980). Two more job characteristics in this model influence motivation: Autonomy and feedback. Autonomy is to what extent an individual can design their own work methods. Feedback is about providing knowledge about the work, preferably from work itself. (Hackman and Oldham, 1980).

Building CI systems is not only a matter of creating new processes and structures, but also involves re-thinking the practices, roles, and responsibilities of each individual within the organization. There is a need for a new culture where employees contribute to developing the organization. The strategy of the case organizations was to allow as many employees as possible, regardless of status or position, to contribute to CI. The contribution of everyone is closely linked to respect for people, since respect and fair treatment increase individual willingness to participate in CI (McGregor, 2006). The first part of the findings covers how management, by respecting people, can contribute to increased employee motivation. The second part covers how CI organization can affect employee motivation. Research question one and two are treated in the same paragraphs, first the mechanism is the described followed by how management can use it.

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