Employment Enterprises Blog

Unleashing Employee Potential Through Lean Principles

Posted by Elena Todorova on May 9, 2016 11:36:51 AM

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Lean principles can transform company culture and revolutionize the way you run your business. Becoming lean–being more efficient with time, resources, and energy–will not just make your processes smoother, your delivery times faster, and your productivity greater. If you implement them correctly, lean principles will also empower your people to deliver a greater difference than ever before. And that will not just increase innovation throughout your teams, but also drive real, bottom-line results for your customers.

Here at O.C. Tanner, we have seen dramatic results from implementing lean principles in our own manufacturing teams. We have seen production time slashed from 26 days to a mere 20 minutes. We’ve improved efficiency by 300%. We have become greener, eliminating all hazardous waste and saving 6 million pieces of paper annually. And those are just the front-line effects. We’ve also witnessed happier customers and more satisfied employees as lean principles have made their impact.

But how did the momentum for these changes begin? And why are so many leaders and HR professionals struggling with applying lean principles in the workplace? Given the huge gains that companies stand to realize from embracing lean principles, how can we bridge the gap of understanding and get teams and management on board with a lean overhaul?

It’s a process of learning, leading, and respect. We like to call lean processes “the democratization of innovation.” From the start of your lean process goals, invite people to make a difference. Tap into the potential of every individual to give their unique perspective. Ask teams and individual contributors to chime in as you begin your culture change. Have them weigh in with their ideas on what can be made more efficient, less costly, or simplified. Ask them, “Where is there the most room for improvement?”

The truth is, people have great ideas and want to share them. And there’s no one better than the people who interact with a process day in and day out to give feedback on what should be tweaked. When done right, lean processes empower your own teams’ ideas to take root in your organization. By encouraging experimentation, innovation, and inquiry, you can give your people space to innovate and internalize the lean processes.

And then, as results start rolling in, reward and recognize employees who embrace lean behaviors. Small improvements–like shaving seconds off a manufacturing process–make a huge difference in the long run. Collaboration and communication during implementation deliver a difference as well. Recognize people who are innovating and inspiring others. By appreciating great work at every level, you will empower your people to deliver continuous improvement, expand productivity in every team, and drive innovation throughout your organization.


This article comes to us from our friends at O.C. Tanner, where they help companies appreciate people who do great work.

Elena Todorova is a recent college grad who brings a fresh perspective to employee appreciation. She is a writer, a meticulous grammar fiend, and a content sleuth who believes in the power of pith. Having recently discovered the benefits of research-backed, purposeful recognition, she firmly believes that workplace generational differences needn’t create a schism, after all.

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