How to Foster Continuous Improvement

How to Foster Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement identifies opportunities to reduce waste and streamline work. Broadly speaking, it finds opportunities to execute processes more effectively and get more from less. Although this approach originated in manufacturing, continuous improvement is an essential element to countless successful companies across every conceivable vertical.

For many, there’s little doubt that fostering continuous improvement can drive sustainable, long-term results. The bigger question is often whether it be introduced effectively across all levels of their organization.

How individual staff can foster continuous Improvement

As individuals within an organization, staff can encourage and support continuous improvement while also enjoying its benefits. As individuals within an organization, staff can encourage and support continuous improvement while also enjoying its benefits.
The Kaizen process is the almost synonymous methodology for this. The term itself translates to “continuous improvement” in Japanese.
Popularised by Toyota, Kaizen focuses on making small, frequent improvements to existing processes, and from any level of an organization. Kaizen challenges stubborn “how we’ve always done things” attitudes typically found in well-established organizations.  By way of making micro-changes, Kaizen eliminates waste and silos. It aims for standardised processes in:

Quality of products, business processes and following best practices 

  • Cost of resources
  • Delivery time and non-value-added activities
  • Management of attitudes, training, flow and documentation
  • Safe working conditions

Individuals can implement the Kaizen philosophy by:

  • Using flowcharts or value stream maps to visualize current processes and identify areas of improvement.
  • Questioning the status quo in order to make meaningful changes to processes.
  • Dropping the pursuit of perfection – no methodology can ever create perfect systems or processes, but they can continuously improve conditions.
  • Celebrating your successes and those of your team members in small ways to keep everyone invested and engaged.
  • Setting aside time for team collaboration on improvement projects.

How leadership can foster continuous Process Improvement through systems & culture

Leadership have an equally important role to play as front-line staff. They can often contribute large amounts through creating a change culture.

This can be done by:

  • Empowering everyone to make small changes in their own processes. Small ideas can lead to big changes.
  • Creating an environment where employees feel free to address problems and pitch ideas. If the idea doesn’t work out, it should be iterated and improved instead of dismissed as a failure.
  • Holding continuous improvement events, providing team members with tasks to action to help new processes take hold within the organization.
While Kaizen can be highly applicable on a company-wide scale, Total Quality Management (TQM) is a methodology that leaders may wish to utilize or borrow from. Gaining popularity in the late 1980’s after the US Federal Government implemented it, TQM strives for customer satisfaction.

Organizations using TQM typically adhere to the following principles: 

  • A strategic and systematic approach should be followed.
  • Customers determine the quality level.
  • Employees are to work towards common goals with effective communication and training ensuring consistent quality.
  • Organizations should define the steps that are required in any process and monitor performance, continuously looking for ways to compete.
Diagrams are readily embraced by TQM companies, including Ishikawa diagrams, flowcharts and check sheets.

Aside from these systemic efforts, company leaders also need to make changes to culture to support continuous improvement by: 

  • Recognizing and rewarding continuous improvement successes, such as with raises, promotions, bonuses or even recognition.
  • Becoming a courageous change leader by supporting constructive disruption.
  • Leading by example, such as by being receptive to feedback or conducting regular self-assessments with vulnerability.
  • Thinking of ways to develop your employees, not just your product or service.
  • Hiring with diversity in mind in order to benefit from a broad spectrum of perspectives and ideas.

How individual staff and leadership can work together to foster continuous process improvement

A culture of continuous process improvement can only thrive if individual staff and leadership work together.

Continuous improvement should be integrated into all aspects of the business. For example it can be included in internal communication, KPIs, personal development programs and job descriptions.

A shared vision needs to be emphasised through these everyday activities, reiterating the need to strive towards a common goal.

A suggestion process should be developed so that ideas can be easily gathered and evaluated. This also includes developing a clear system to follow instead of allowing individuals to implement changes at will.

Collaboration on continuous process improvement needs to be done through empowerment, involvement and suggestions, not directions or orders.

Continuous process improvement methodologies like Kaizen and TQM can help individuals improve their own approach to work by eliminating waste, while allowing organizations to optimise involvement from people at every level.

As well as improving production and costs, continuous process improvement improves morale and satisfaction, leading to better outcomes and retention.

Small changes can make an enormous difference, with a thriving continuous improvement process setting you up for sustainable success.

This is an excerpt from Flowingly’s process guide, Creating a Culture of Process Improvement.

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Apply for Leave

Apply for Leave

Leave requests are one of the most common processes within an organization. For this reason, they are a great place to start with process improvement. Even small improvements here can save the business thousands of hours a year.

1. Submit Request Initiator
The trigger for starting this process is the employee initiating the request. You will want to capture all the required information about the request at this step, eliminating any back-and-forth later in the process. Consider things like:
  • Type of leave (annual, sick etc.)
  • Dates requested
  • Whether leave in advance is required
  • Whether they will be contactable
2. Check Employee Leave Balance Payroll
Upon submission of the request, the Payroll team will provide the first approval. This is simply to check whether the Initiator has enough leave accrued. This should be a basic Approval or Rejection.

If “leave in advance” was requested, Payroll can approve the request and leave a comment for the Initiator’s Manager to see in the next step.

2. Check Employee Leave Balance Payroll
Upon submission of the request, the Payroll team will provide the first approval. This is simply to check whether the Initiator has enough leave accrued. This should be a basic Approval or Rejection.

If “leave in advance” was requested, Payroll can approve the request and leave a comment for the Initiator’s Manager to see in the next step.

3. Check Team Calendar for Clashes Initiator’s Manager
The next step in the process is the for the Initiator’s Manager to check for any calendar clashes within their team and either approve or reject the request based on this. Depending on your organization size and structure, you may find that you have no difficulty covering a staff member’s absence, or that you need to arrange cover during this time. These are things for the manager to consider at this step.
4. Approval Email Notification
Once the leave has been approved or rejected, an automated email can be sent to the initiator to inform them of the outcome.
4. Approval Email Notification
Once the leave has been approved or rejected, an automated email can be sent to the initiator to inform them of the outcome.
5. Update Payroll Records Payroll
The final step of the process sits with the Payroll team. This is just a reminder for them to confirm that the leave has been recorded in their payroll system and that any shared leave calendars have been updated. One of the key benefits of managing this through a workflow platform is that you can ensure this process is not marked as complete until all required steps are done.  

This is an excerpt from Flowingly’s process guide, Essential Processes for Human Resources.

Proven Processes to Streamline Your HR Journey.

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Onboard & Induct A New Employee

Onboard & Induct A New Employee

A quality onboarding experience is the single most important step to getting a new staff member to an operational level quickly. Sadly, this is a process that many organizations only pay lip-service to.

If you’ve been lucky enough to join a company with an exceptional onboarding experience, you’ll know just how powerful it is. The benefits are endless. Better understanding of company culture. Improved grasp of responsibilities. Increased performance through better training. Decreased time to becoming fully operational.

1. Send Welcome Email and Request New Employee’s Details Manager
What better way to kick-off the new employee’s experience than with an email welcoming them to the company! This is a great way to introduce them to the company culture and set the tone for what they can expect going forward.

Use this opportunity to request the employee’s details, such as their tax details, superannuation info or their working visa. This will save you more time on their first day.

    2. Complete New Employee Basic Information Manager
    Once the manager has the employee’s basic information, they can collate it into a standardized form for the HR team. When building this process, it is the responsibility of the HR team to outline exactly what they require to process a new employee. If it’s not outlined in the process, the manager will not know what is required.
    2. Complete New Employee Basic Information Manager
    Once the manager has the employee’s basic information, they can collate it into a standardized form for the HR team. When building this process, it is the responsibility of the HR team to outline exactly what they require to process a new employee. If it’s not outlined in the process, the manager will not know what is required.
    3. Approve Employee Paperwork & Enter in HR System Human Resources
    This step is where the HR team enters the provided details into their systems. The first action is to check that all the requested details have been entered correctly. If not, the process can be sent back to the manager to fix.

    We use a combination of a task list and an approval in this step. This could be split into two, however the best processes are nice and simple. This creates no unnecessary wastage and less admin.

    4. Prepare Employee’s Desk and Laptop IT Services
    Now that the basic information has been covered, it’s time to setup the employee’s tool-of-trade. IT can simply come in and follow a quick checklist outlining what the employee requires. A handy addition to this step would be a quick video on desk ergonomics!

    Optional extra: Some companies may require a stack of software to be setup for the new employee. If this is the case, additional fields can be used to inform IT of the required software. This removes the hassle of back-and-forth emails over logins during the first couple of weeks.

    4. Prepare Employee’s Desk and Laptop IT Services
    Now that the basic information has been covered, it’s time to setup the employee’s tool-of-trade. IT can simply come in and follow a quick checklist outlining what the employee requires. A handy addition to this step would be a quick video on desk ergonomics!

    Optional extra: Some companies may require a stack of software to be setup for the new employee. If this is the case, additional fields can be used to inform IT of the required software. This removes the hassle of back-and-forth emails over logins during the first couple of weeks.

    5. Issue New Employee Items Administration
    It’s now Day 1 of the employee’s new job and they require some basic items to become a fully-functional employee. Things you might want to include here:
    • Mobile phone and charger
    • Security door key
    • Swipe card

    If you’re more advanced with your processes, you would link this up with your employee exit process. This would allow you to mark off these items as returned at the end of employment.

    6. Complete Activities by End of Week 1 New Employee
    As we all know, the first week at a company can be a bit of a blur. Most organizations have a standardized approach. This step of the process should be a simple checklist, where the employee can check off that they have been introduced to the team, gone through an H&S induction, had their photo taken and more.
    6. Complete Activities by End of Week 1 New Employee
    As we all know, the first week at a company can be a bit of a blur. Most organizations have a standardized approach. This step of the process should be a simple checklist, where the employee can check off that they have been introduced to the team, gone through an H&S induction, had their photo taken and more.
    7. Complete Activities by End of Month 1 New Employee
    The key to an effective onboarding is having specific timings and goals. It is important for the manager to set aside time to understand how the employee is tracking and to give them feedback and coaching. Many businesses have their new employees spend time with different parts of the company. The end of month 1 is a great time to get together and review the key takeaways that the employee has had in their first few weeks. This step may include a review of what the employee has learned and opportunities for company improvement that they have seen with fresh eyes.
    8. Complete Activities by End of Months 2 & 3 New Employee
    By now the employee should be progressing to an operational stage. This is a good chance for the employee to review their learnings and sit down with their manager to evaluate their progress. It is important to capture feedback at this step. This will help management understand the effectiveness of the onboarding process, and whether it requires further improvement.
    8. Complete Activities by End of Months 2 & 3 New Employee
    By now the employee should be progressing to an operational stage. This is a good chance for the employee to review their learnings and sit down with their manager to evaluate their progress. It is important to capture feedback at this step. This will help management understand the effectiveness of the onboarding process, and whether it requires further improvement.

    This is an excerpt from Flowingly’s process guide, Essential Processes for Human Resources.

    Proven Processes to Streamline Your HR Journey.

    Discover the building blocks of process improvement.

    Release Notes – 2020 R1

    Release Notes – 2020 R1

    Our first release of 2020 introduces Flow Model version tracking, print-friendly Flows, and improved process map visibility. 

    Have a look at the highlights of this release: 

    Flow Model Versions

    We’ve added the ability to view the Flow Model version number from when a Flow was started. You can also export specific Flow Model versions.

    This is useful if you update a Flow model and users have already initiated it.

    Flow Model version is displayed in:

    • The first Step of new flows 
    • A new column added to Report page 
    • A new column added to CSV report

    Printer-Friendly Flows

    We’ve improved the export Flow functionality and allow user to save it in a more printer friendly format. 

    The new document now includes a comment section which will include all comments added by workflow users while the flow was in progress.

    A common use-case is to include comments made on an expense request process, printed for archival purposes.

    Process Map Visibility 

    Flowingly Workflow Users can now open and review Process Maps from within Flowingly’s Runner.

    Clicking on a Process Map from the Maps page will direct Flowingly users to a new page displaying the selected Process Map instead of opening the Flowingly Modeler.

    This is especially useful for organizations using Flowingly as a repository for Process Maps. Staff can easily view relevant process maps without opening the Flowingly Modeler.

    Additional Improvements

    • Short text customization
    • Customizable subject placeholder text
    • Introduced last updated date column in Library
    • Added scroll bar to form designer
    • Option list fields and Approval options now are deselectable
    • Small tweaks and bug fixes
    If you’d like to learn more about how Flowingly can help you on your process improvement journey, get a demo today!

    Get your business flowing

    Request Access to Applications

    Request Access to Applications

    Many companies run this process informally, often using email. This approach can work with 10 employees in the same office. But what about when you have 100 employees? What if they start working remotely? As soon as your business progresses past being able to swivel your chair to talk to the admin of the application, you need to develop a proper request process.

    1. Select the Required Applications Initiator
    It’s common for remote employees to suddenly find that they no longer have access to something they regularly used in the office. Luckily, in the age of cloud-based applications, accessing software from anywhere is easier than ever. The first step of this process is for the employee to highlight what they need access too. Bonus tip: this step also works really well when onboarding a new employee, you’d just have it as a step for their manager. 
    2. Set Up XYZ Accounts Various
    When companies run this process informally using email, things get missed By having a full list of services in a single place, life is made far more simple for the employee and the IT team supporting them. The great thing about using workflow software to process these requests is that it directs the request down the right channel instantly. No more “Hey Sam, do you know who the admin for Slack is?” 
    3. Login and Go! Initiator
    The final step of this simple process is for the employee to check that your logins all work. Have them mark off that they’re all logged in and ready to go.  

    This is an excerpt from Flowingly’s latest process guide, Essential Processes for Remote Work.

    Proven processes to help you manage a remote workforce.

    Discover the building blocks for constructing a strong remote culture.