Quality in a Warehouse – Reimagining the Process

Working DollarOver the last 20+ years in and out of warehouses, it never ceases to amaze and horrify the quality department operations and the waste of resources spent in either making up for failed quality or haphazardly running quality programs, thinking they are a waste of time.  Even those companies who focus resources on quality never seem to understand the trifecta of operational integrity (Product in, Quality, Product Ship) that quality could bring to an organization.  The reality is simple, quality is either your focus, your company is growing, or quality is a nothing burger, and your company will eventually be purchased or bankrupted.  There is no third option; we need to be clear on this point; quality is this important!

In quality and part of many compliance requirements are counting to ensure inventory is correct.  The counts break down into three types:

  • The Hunt – goes by many names but generally requires a person to count everything in a specific inventory location, e.g., shelf, rack, drawer, bin, etc.
  • Cleaning Inventory – is almost always called a cycle count, and its main job is to take the errors found in the hunt and clean them up, resolving specific issues.
  • Correcting Inventory – goes by many names but is generally used as a specific action where research is required, combining the hunt and the cleaning to find particular errors, lost product, and specific SKU issues.

If the counts were ordered by a financial institution instead of the quality department, the processes for clearing the errors might differ; the names often vary.  Yet the categories are pretty generalized to cross industries and remain applicable to a general discussion on operational improvement and excellence.  Specific companies will change names and processes, but I affirm the categories are sufficiently described to be practical and applicable.

Money

A fact of life, inventory is expensive, counting that inventory burns blue money, and those funds are generally not recoupable!  When speaking about money, colors of money are critical to a discussion.  Unfortunately, too many business leaders are either too concerned with green money or not cognizant sufficiently of the other colors to see how they all play roles on the bottom line’s performance.

  • Blue Money: Potential Money.  For example, buy a hammer with green money and invest $20.00.  But, in the hands of an experienced tradesperson, that hammer is worth thousands of times this amount of money over the life of the hammer.  The inverse is also true; in the hands of an inexperienced tradesperson, the potential for loss of money is incalculable!
  • Red Money:   Specifically, debt where interest is owed, on top of the principal, and other cash outlays.
  • Black Money: Dead Money!  Dead money cannot earn interest, cannot be spent due to fear, and cannot be used anywhere.  For example, drop a $10.00 bill into the sofa, and that money is as dead as yesterday’s fish!  Worse, once found that capital is usually in someone else’s hands.
  • Green Money: Cash!  Plain ol’ greenbacks.  Be those digital dollars, actual paper money, change, etc.; this is money that can still be invested, spent, and transferred for products.  Generally representing the bottom line.

While other colors exist, the focus is on these four types specifically.  Let’s use an analogy here for a moment.  A warehouse company hires a person to count inventory (green money outlay).  That inventory person invests time to count inventory (blue money) errors in stock could be red, black, green money errors, based upon how the inventory problems are resolved.  If no inventory problems exist, only the blue money was spent potentially finding the mistakes.  However, if errors were made and inventory errors exist but were not found by the inventory counter, more potential money has been lost than green money.  There is a blue, green, red, or black money loss on top of the original investment to have the inventory counted.

There is an axiom pertinent to quality in every industry, “Burn enough blue money, and green money evaporates with no trace.”  Hence, if the quality people are burning too much potential money to find defects in inventory, green money (cash) will disappear off the bottom line without anyone ever knowing or tracking the loss.  This brings the conversation back to types of counts and the problems in quality operations.

Fundamentals of Reconnaissance

Anyone who has ever conducted reconnaissance will know and understand the connection between quality and inventory in a warehouse and reconnaissance.  For those not familiar, here are the fundamentals of reconnaissance.  Reconnaissance is all about observations and reporting, communicating and making decisions about intentions, forecasting, and deciphering to make the best decisions while passing relevant information to leaders.  Guess what; The same is true of quality departments, especially in warehouse inventory.  The seven fundamentals of reconnaissance are:

  1. Ensure continuous reconnaissance occurs
  2. Do not keep reconnaissance assets in reserve
  3. Orient on the reconnaissance objective
  4. Report information rapidly and accurately
  5. Retain freedom of maneuver
  6. Gain and maintain enemy contact
  7. Develop the situation rapidly

Essentially, in civilian speak, the fundamentals of reconnaissance boil down to initial observation, data collection, data analysis, response to data, and response assessment (evaluate actions with an eye to the improvement of response).  Repeating only for emphasis, every employee in a manufacturing or warehouse environment is part of the quality chain of events.  They need to know how their actions individually lead to group (business) success.  Case in point, a stock person stocks a bin with a product; if that bin is crammed full, the product is going to fall out, become damaged, and create problems for the next person to look at that inventory location.  If in a manufacturing environment, if stock feeding machines are not uniformly loaded into the machines, damage, injury, and death potential are maximized.Inventory Quotes Humor. QuotesGram

It is important to remember that this is part of the first step in reconnaissance, observing what is currently happening.  Observation is also part of the most basic type of count, the hunt.  Knowing what the inventory looks like, how to access that inventory, maneuvering on a production floor, personal safety, and equipment knowledge and safety are all part of properly observing, collecting, and reporting data.  A person I know once told me, “Keep throwing spaghetti at the wall until something sticks.”  What is not mentioned is the need to prepare the spaghetti so it will stick when thrown.  Observation is where preparation occurs, and the business skipping preparation will always fail to capture the data for analysis accurately.

Counting Inventory

The hunt represents the counts with the least return on investment and a need.  Hunting inventory errors is akin to hunting game only with a camera.  You might get good pictures, but hunting with a camera will not fill your belly if you are hungry.  Personally, I despise the hunt and have long advocated for these counts to be removed from the quality department’s count types or be redesigned to become more valuable.  Simply counting inventory for the sake of hoping to find an error is anathema to good business sense and propriety.Inventory Quotes Humor. QuotesGram

Remember, a paradox occurs when two items are compared, and at first glance, they are opposites, when in reality, and with consideration, the truth is revealed they are more closely related than they are opposing.  The same is true to counts that hunt for inventory defects and proper observation, providing why I despise the hunt counting.  Preparation is a prerequisite to revelation, knowing where the inventory is, how to maneuver in a warehouse, and reach the stock; all this and more are essential.  Yet, when counting inventory, I affirm there must be a better way than endlessly sending people out to count, hoping to find defects.

Some companies have mixed inventory hunting counts with shelf maintenance and bin cleaning defects.  Warehouse rash, trash, litter, dirt, and debris in a warehouse remain a significant safety issue and should be cleaned regularly.  However, if the stock person is not already cleaning and stocking bins and shelves properly, the quality assurance person sent out to hunt for defects will become demoralized and stop cleaning up after the stock handlers.  Whether those stock handlers are pickers, packers, pullers, stockers, etc., the title is less important than the role they play in quality for handling the inventory, keeping a steady strain on the cleanliness of the shelves, bins, and storage locations, and correctly placing the stock into the inventory locations.

Several colleagues who are part of the quality control group in warehouses express similar sentiments to the following: “My job in quality would be a lot easier if those stocking shelves and those pulling stock to ship would pay more attention to how they handle the stock and the inventory locations.”  To which my answer is always the same, “Are all your people aware of the role they play in quality?”  By the comments answering my question, it is fundamentally clear that there is a Grand Canyon-like chasm between those not officially in quality and those in other roles, and fixing the problem, and eliminating the useless hunt counts, is all part of bridging this chasm!The Crazy Work Related Moments (51 pics) - Izismile.com

Hunt counts do one thing valuably, they provide an innocuous way for quality people to learn the inventory and observe conditions generally, which sounds like two separate actions, but in reality, they are the same action.  That’s the entire value in hunt counts; these counts cannot clean inventory defects; they can only take a picture and report that picture to begin another warehouse process.  The frequency of errors in the inventory hunt process forms a view that reports how clean or dirty a warehouse’s inventory process is; but, this report can be related with greater accuracy without the hunt counts.  Unfortunately, because the data reported is shared in numerical values, individual bias in the statistical reporting tools can be manipulated and often is misrepresented by conscious or unconscious bias.

Hence, we can conclude that the hunt count by itself has little to no value (green money), is expensive (blue money), and will heavily influence the acquisition and maintenance of red, green, and black money.  What is a person to do?[2020's] Top 11 FAR CPA Exam Study Tips - Pass on Your 1st ...

Possible Solutions

Possible solutions are aptly named because no warehouse is exactly the same, no company is exactly the same, and the quality department mission will always differ from one business unit to another and between businesses that compete.  I admit I am heavily biased against hunt counts in the warehouse and manufacturing industries.  However, I am also heavily biased about removing something that works for something untried in the hopes it will replace a flawed system.  Thus, the solutions proposed remain possible solutions to initiate the spark to a future conversation and obtain input from smarter minds.

  1. Since the hunt counts are basic, and the roles of stockers and pullers are very similar to an initial role in quality where learning and observing inventory is a prerequisite, make the entry-level job for stockers/pullers/quality all the same position—cementing the need for everyone to play an active role in quality while also removing lines that separate.
  2. Fundamentally change the hunt count to focus not on inventory locations that appear clean but those in chaos. Chaos in an inventory location should be the primary focus for correction, not simply a mindset that everything will eventually be counted, so invest in useless counts to make work.  Hence a stocker or puller would approach an inventory location with problems and count that full location while cleaning and straightening that location and reporting that location as problematic for corrective remediation with the last person who visited that inventory location.
  3. Stocker/pullers will not be able to correct defective inventory; this is a Sarbanes-Oxley headache for compliance, but this is a good thing. A level two quality associate could then be dispatched to that newly cleaned, organized inventory location to perform inventory correcting actions, thus speeding the corrective inventory action and providing better data on associate activities.
  4. Part of reconnaissance is using data more wisely; this includes capturing data details, improving training, promoting quality as a mindset for every employee, and analyzing the data for specific corrective actions the business can initiate in inventory locations, shapes of packaging, and handling stock more efficiently to prevent damage. Follow the data path to root causes and act on correcting root causes.

Final Thoughts

Knowledge Check!Qualitative data is almost useless by itself.  Quantitative data is practically meaningless by itself.  Thus, operational reports must contain both types of data to provide a clear picture of events and be the most useful in improving decision-making.  More to the point, mixing both types of data individual bias and subconscious manipulation of the data is more difficult, thus mitigated.  Reconnaissance is all about communicating and capturing data for analysis.  Why should a business leader only have quantitative data to base decisions upon; hence the need to understand data and use data more wisely.  Never settle for only one type of data in a report, never settle for what has always worked in the past, and never allow business processes and procedures to live longer than 18 consecutive months without a full review and torture testing to check for better ways and means.  It cannot be emphasized enough, “If you do not try the impossible, you will never achieve the possible.”

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Circling Back:  Going the Extra Mile in Customer Service

Bobblehead DollIt is no secret; I am a doctoral candidate.  On Facebook, I advertised my dissertation to find participants to engage in my dissertation data collection.  My dissertation is all about the role of the trainer in call center training.  I am looking to answer some specific questions about what a trainer does, their role in training, and flush out details about the role of the call center trainer in establishing genetic memory.  My first ad on Facebook, believe it or not, received more direct respondents than my second or third attempts.  That the respondents accused me of being fake, a troll, and committing several bodily functions on their timelines bothered me greatly.

When mentioned to representatives from Facebook, who could see the comments and the original ad, the representatives reflected less care than I would have ever imagined.  Yet, Facebook claims to be “customer-centric,” “customer-driven,” and “customer-obsessed.”  LinkedIn, AT&T, Sprint/T-Mobile, Bank of America, Navy Federal Credit Union, and many other companies make similar claims and act similarly, where the professed policies are disconnected from reality, and the only person who suffers is oddly the customer.  Then, the agents representing these companies are then asked to “go the extra mile for the customer.”Pin by N D on Jokes | Dilbert comics, Work humor, Funny picture quotes

When going the extra mile was first addressed, leadership, training, business processes, and organizational communication all were aspects to the foundation to helping an agent “go the extra mile.”  More needs to be discussed on “going the extra mile” and delivering upon the promises made by leadership.  However, the discussion is useless unless followed swiftly by concerted action; thus, this article asks for and directly inspires action.

Compounded Leadership Failure

Let’s begin with reality and address the 300# gorilla.  To the leaders of companies, customers are listening, and they are not stupid!  Whether you believe this or not, your customers do, and they do not like what they see.  AT&T, LinkedIn, and Facebook regularly inundate me with the voice of the customer surveys, new products, performance surveys, surveys, surveys, surveys.  These are not the only companies demanding answers and resources from customers, but these companies are especially egregious at this practice.  Tell me, why does nothing ever change in customer approach, customer service, customer care, and the voice-of-the-customer always appears to fall on deaf ears?Colin Powell quote: Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you...

Leadership never collects qualitative and quantitative data and then uses this information to make change, drive visible customer affecting policy shifts, or even act like the customer is worthy of being listened to.  How do we, the customers know we are not being heard; the agents do not have the ability to affect change.  I called Xfinity/Comcast; I have an issue, I get nowhere with the agents, but I am still expected and offered multiple times the voice-of-the-customer survey to help improve customer relations.  I invest my time in completing the survey; I even indicate a return call to discuss the scores is acceptable, only later do I discover that the voice-of-the-customer data is never worked, customers are not called, and the company does not care.

Poor Leadership #inspirational #motivational #quotes | Bad leadership quotes, Leadership quotes ...If you are sending a survey out, you need to address the survey results.  Publicly with your agents, transparently with your shareholders and investors, and clearly and openly with your customers.  By refusing to do these things, the leadership failures in demanding customer resources to complete surveys are wasted, compounded, and the customer is listening!  Worse, the customer is sharing this information with other customers and is openly looking for options to replace you and your company!  By publicly claiming “customer-obsession,” “customer-centricity,” and “customer-first” propaganda (e.g., marketing promises), you are making a commitment.  Failure to honor that commitment delivers a “Used Car Sales” pitch, and lawyers and politicians become more trustworthy than you and your company.  Customers are tired of “Lemons” when paying for cherries; is this clear enough?

Who is your first customer?

To every person claiming the first customer is a service or product purchaser, you are WRONG!  Your first customer is your employees.  Yet, employee abuse remains central to employee churn.  Asking your employees to “go the extra mile” for an external customer and not seeing the business first go the extra mile for them is disheartening at best to your employees.

I am intimately familiar with a well-known company, its operations, and its customer commitment.  The company does an excellent job in employee relations, which leads to year-over-year success with external customers.  But the company has some deep-seated problems they are working on, and because they are honestly working on these issues, I am willing to give them anonymity for their efforts.  One of the most fundamental issues this company has is in product delivery; the operations in the warehouse prioritize outbound (customer shipping of products ordered) to the exclusion of quality.  The products are more important than the people, which is a growing pain for this company.Tiger Team

By forgetting that the first customer is the employees, this group churns at phenomenal rates compared to other business units.  Why?  Because of the insanity of being left out of customer service.  Company benefits, time-off, vacation policies, “swag,” free merchandise, etc., none of this compensates for irrational operations that fundamentally treat the employee poorly and in a confused manner.  If your company is “customer-focused,” then employees are top priority, and in making them top priority, they look after your external customers more efficiently, more expertly, and they will build a fatter bottom-line through “going the extra mile.”

When was the last time your employees were honestly engaged in voice-of-the-customer surveys and results?  When was the last time the employees knew they were the top priority in your business?  When was the last time operational policies and procedures were adjusted to remove confusion about employee worth and value?  Tell me, are your shareholders and investors treated better than your number one investor, your employees?  If so, your shareholders should be raking the current leadership over the coals for robbery and theft.  Reduced bottom lines because of employee treatment should be a significant issue of discussion by the shareholders and investors, for this is nothing short of robbery. You are compounding another leadership failure through employee abuse, which increases costs and lowers bottom-line performance, e.g., robbing the investor and shareholder because you have refused to provide your first customer simple customer recognition, let alone service.

Going the Extra Mile

Before a supervisor, team leader, director, or other leaders in your business organization asks for an employee to “go the extra mile,” rate that leader on this question, “Have they already walked two miles with the employee?”  If not, that person is asking for the impossible.  No extra efforts can or ought to be sought when leadership fails to first show and do what it takes to walk two miles with an employee.

Call Center BeansWant to know a secret?  When the leader first walks two miles with the employee, that leader never has to ask anyone to “go the extra mile,” EVER!  Your best leaders, your followers, are the people who, instead of looking forward first, make it a priority to look sideways.  These leaders are experts at lifting the talent needed to look forward to a higher level.  Looking sideways includes value-added training programs, professional paths to progression, recognizing and praising efforts honestly and frequently, delegating assignments and tasks, and being actively engaged in delivering “customer-centricity” to the employees.  As a supervisor, team lead, director, etc., your first customer is those who follow you; what have you done lately to prove customer obsession to them?

By the way, your first customer is listening, awake, and actively engaged in either growing or leaving, all based upon how you treat your first customer.  I suggest taking heed of them.?u=http3.bp.blogspot.com-CIl2VSm-mmgTZ0wMvH5UGIAAAAAAAAB20QA9_IiyVhYss1600showme_board3.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

If you want to be part of my dissertation research, please reach out to me using the following email address: msalisbury1@my.gcu.edu.  Please help me help you and your company through value-added research.

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the photos or images used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Shifting the Employment Paradigm – I Still DO NOT want to be an Employee!

November 2012, I wrote the first in a series of articles on shifting the employee paradigms.  These articles discussed the freelance or consultant versus the employee in the structure of the organizational design.  Multiple times, the right to control has been addressed as part of the “rights” granted by the Internal Revenue Service to Employers, so the employers will continue to play the Federal Government’s game of control and heavy-handed authoritarian thuggishness.  These topics and more continue to surface on this blog in an attempt to help the employee understand the problem and issues, the loss of freedoms and rights, in becoming an employee.

Today, Joey, the blundering president, has published the 400+ page OSHA abomination that forces you to lose the rest of your privacy to your employer—ending HIPAA, foreclosing your rights to your liberty not to vaccinate, and shaming you into wearing a mask and discriminating if you do not.  While the OSHA regulation is unconstitutional and a clear governmental overreach, Congress remains silent in its scrutiny of the executive branch of the government.  Worse, the citizens of America think that the judicial branch can be trusted to “save them” from the executive branch of government, which is always a BAD IDEA!

OSHA and Joey have declared that employers with over 100 employees have to comply.  After this is accepted, then employers over 50-employees, then 10- employees, and so forth will be targeted until nobody who employees anyone can escape.  This is how the government works, and this is why we need a different structure to operate under.

Employers, employees, I have a better idea than trusting the government to act responsibly.  It is past time to revisit the structure wars and redesign the employee/employer relationship in America.  What is the answer; knowledge vending instead of the employer/employee relationship.  Please, allow me a moment of your precious time to explain.

The idea is simple.  You have employees who know your business cold, know your customers, understand your processes, procedures, workflows, products, and services.  How many of your employees would love to brand themselves to your organization as knowledge vendors?  Ask them!  Then offer them the choice to become independent contractors using the IRS publications as a guide.  The knowledge vendor provides their tools, you provide them access, and they brand themselves and contract to serve your organization, with autonomy to work for you on their terms and schedule.

Please note, this is critical; the IRS continues to change the rules on an almost fluid and whimsical basis.  The link takes you to the designation between an employee and a contractor.  Lawyers will need to help design the necessary contracts to control the relationship.  Some assistance will be required to help those transitioning to ensure they are not killed financially in the tax tsunami the IRS likes to launch.  However, taking this step forces the Federal Government hand over OSHA and allows you and your now independent contractor workforce to return to business instead of compliance. Everyone retains their liberty, plus your privacy and medical records remain your business, not your employer’s or the Federal Governments’.

It cannot be stressed enough; the IRS should never have been placed in control over the employee/employer relationship controls.  Worse, these controls should never have been assumed by the government in the first place.  Since the Federal Government has assumed these powers, everyone needs to understand the fundamental categories that differentiate an employee from a knowledge vendor/contractor.

These topics are covered in-depth on the links, and I have covered them in various articles previously.  Until Congress removes these rights from the IRS, the contracts covering those knowledge vendors must spell out succinctly these controls to avoid the IRS meddling and penalizing the vendor and the employer maliciously.  More to the point, the IRS has, in the past, gone backward and retroactively changed its rules to penalize employers and vendors through “clarifying,” which the courts upheld.

Risky path to take; potentially!  However, all life is risk, and I cannot think of anything more perilous than capitulating to Joey and his merry band of authoritarian thugs!  Plus, America needs to join the rest of the industrialized nations in offering choices to the employer/employee relationship.  Tax laws, generally, and the IRS specifically, are choking the lifeblood out of American ingenuity and increasing the cost of compliance year-over-year.  We need real solutions to these problems and freeing the American worker is the best solution.

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Employee Engagement

Knowledge Check!Recently this topic was raised in a town hall style meeting, and the comments from the leadership raised several concerns.  It appears that employee engagement is attempting to become a “buzzword” instead of an action item, and this bothers me greatly.  Worse, many people lead teams with vague ideas about what employee engagement means and then shape their own biases into the employee engagement program, making a pogrom of inanity and suffering out of a tool for benefiting and improving employee relations.

When discussing employee engagement, we must first begin with a fundamental truth; employees do not work for a company, do not work for a brand; they work for a manager.  An employee might like a company; they might enjoy having their professional brand aligned with a known branded organization. The employee might feel pride in associating with other employees under that brand.  When the road gets difficult at the end of the day, an employee works for a manager.  The relationship between a manager and an employee is one of trust operationalized and honed through shared experiences.

Employee Engagement – Defined

ProblemsAccording to several online sources, the definition of employee engagement is, “Employee engagement is a fundamental concept in the effort to understand and describe, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the nature of the relationship between an organization and its employees.”  If you believe this definition, you will miss the forest for the bark you are fixated upon!  Employee engagement is fundamental; it is not a concept, a theory, or a buzzword.  Employee engagement is a relationship between organizational leaders and the employees, but employee engagement is not about collecting qualitative or quantitative data for decision-making policy-based relationship guidance.  At the most basic level, employee engagement is the impetus an employee chooses to onboard because of the motivational actions of the manager they report to.

Employees must choose to engage; when they choose not to engage, there is no enthusiasm in the employee, and this can be heard in every action taken by the employees on the company’s behalf.  Is this clear; employee engagement is an individual action, where impetus leads to motivated and enthused action.  While organizational leaders can and do influence motivation, they cannot force the employee to engage!  Thus, revealing another aspect of why the definition found online is NOT acceptable for use in any employee engagement effort!Leadership Cartoon

Employee engagement is the actions an employee is willing to take, indicating their motivation to perform their duties and extra-duties for a manager they like.  Employee engagement is the epitome of operational trust realized in daily attitudes, behaviors, and mannerisms of employees who choose to be engaged in solving problems for their employer.  While incentive programs can improve employee engagement, if the employee does not first choose to enjoy the incentive, the incentive program is wasted leadership efforts.  The same can be said for every single “employee benefit.”  If an employee cannot afford the employer’s benefits, those benefits are wasted money the employer needs elsewhere.  Hence, the final point in defining employee engagement is the individualization of incentives and the individual relationship between managers and employees.  Stop the one-size-fits-most offerings, and let’s get back to talking to people.Anton Ego 4

Reflective Listening

Listening has four distinct levels; currently, these are:

      • Inactive listening – Hearing words, seeing written communication, zero impact mentally. Mainly because your internal voices drown out the possibility of communication.
      • Selective listening – Hearing only that which confirms your own voices, opinions, and biases. While others are speaking, you are already forming your response.
      • Active listening – Show the other person you are paying attention to, engage with meaning in a reply. You are focused on removing barriers to get your point across.
      • Reflective listening – Paying attention to intent and content, reducing emotion, two-directional as both parties are engaged in achieving mutual understanding.

Chinese CrisisInactive and selective listening can be heard through phone lines, instant messaging, text messaging, and easily observed during face-to-face communication.  Worse, active listening launches trust, and when faked, destroys credibility, ruining relationships.  Reflective listening can only achieve mutual understanding when both parties are choosing to listen intently and with the purpose of reaching mutual understanding.  The most powerful tool in an organizational leader’s toolbox for quickly rectifying employee engagement is reflectively listening.

Communication occurs in two different modalities, verbal and non-verbal.  Good communicators adapt their message to the audience using reflective listening and careful observation.  Adapting the message requires first choosing, determining who the primary and secondary audience is, and then focusing the message on the primary audience.  Next, adaptation requires prior planning, which includes mental preparation, practice, and channels for feedback.  Finally, adaptation requires listening to achieve mutual understanding, careful observation, asking questions designed to lead to mutual understanding, and clarifying what is being said to achieve mutual understanding.  The pattern described can be the tool that begins employee engagement but is not an end-all solution all by itself.Anton Ego

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative inquiry is a growth mechanism that states that what a business organization needs, they already have enough of, provided they listen to their employees.  Appreciative inquiry and common sense tell leaders who want to know and change their organization and how and where to begin.  Appreciative inquiry-based leadership is 6-continuous steps that start small and cycle to more significant problems as momentum for excellence permeates through an organization.  But the first step, just like in defeating a disabling addiction, is admitting there is a problem.

Here are the six operational steps for appreciative inquiry:

      1. Admit there is a problem and commit to change.
      2. Define the problem.
      3. Discover the variables and stay focused on the positive.
      4. Dream BIG!
      5. Design the future and outline the steps to that future.
      6. Destiny, create the destination you desire.

Bait & SwitchFollow the instructions on a shampoo bottle, “Wash, Rinse, Repeat.”  The appreciative inquiry model can be scaled, repeated, implemented into small or large teams, and produce motivated members who become the force to create change.  Allow yourself and your team to learn, this takes time, but through building motivation for excellence, time can be captured to perform.

Of all the steps in appreciative inquiry, it must be stressed that focusing on the positive is the only way to improve people.  Even if you must make careful observations to catch people doing good, do it!  Focusing on the positive provides the proper culture for engaging as many people as possible.  Criticism, negativity, aspersions, and insults all feed a culture of “Not my problem,” and when the employee claims, “not my problem,” they will never engage until the culture changes.

Organization

Andragogy - LEARNEmployee engagement requires structural changes to the organizational design.  Employee engagement is going to bring immediate change to the organization.  If the leaders, directors, managers, supervisors, team leaders, etc., are not prepared for and willing to change, employee engagement will die as an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.  As a business consultant, I have witnessed the death of employee engagement, and the death is long, protracted, and disastrous to the entire business.  Worse, individuals refusing to change stand out like red dots on a white cloth as employee engagement dies.

Thus, the first step in employee engagement belongs not to the employee, but the employer, who must answer this question: “Are we a learning organization willing to change, or are we a knowing organization who does not need to change?”  How the leadership answers this question will speak volumes to the employees closely observing and making their decisions accordingly.  Depending upon how that question is answered will depend upon whether the business can move onto the second step or remain stuck on the first step.

Andragogy - The PuzzleThe second step in employee engagement is training the organization to accept change and failure as tools for learning, growing, and developing.  A toddler learning to walk will fall more than they stay up before they can run.  The same is true when initiating employee engagement.  Guess what; you are going to fail; can you as an organizational leader accept failing?  Are you willing to admit you failed, made a mistake, and publicly acknowledge the blame and consequences?  Are you willing to allow others to accept the praise for doing the right thing?  Will you as an organizational leader accept change?  How you answer these questions also speaks volumes to the employees you are trying to engage.  Depending upon how you individually and collectively as a team answer these leadership questions will decide if you fall back to step one or advance to step three.

The third step in organizing employee engagement is total commitment.  Are you onboard?  Are all the leaders onboard?  Being onboard means 100% commitment to the organization dreamed in the operational steps to appreciative inquiry.  If not, do not launch an employee engagement program, for it will fail spectacularly!  Never forget the cartoons where a character has one foot on a boat leaving the pier and one foot on the dock; they get wet and left behind!

Have FUN!

Semper GumbyEngaging with employees should be fun, it should be an enjoyable experience, and it should bring out the best in you!  All because you want to see others engage, grow professionally, learn, develop, and become.  Your efforts to teach engagement lead you to learn how to engage better.  Seize these learning opportunities, choose to grow, but never forget to have fun.  My best tool for engaging with employees, dad jokes!  Really, really, really, bad dad jokes!  For example, when Forrest Gump came to Amazon, what was his computer password?

1F@rr3st1

When you get that joke, laugh; but wait for others to get it as well!  Employee engagement is fun, exciting, and can be the best job you ever had as a professional.  Just believe in yourself, believe in and invest the time in appreciative inquiry, organize yourself and your business, and always reflectively listen.Never Give Up!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
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