Nine ways to secure team participation in process improvement

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One of the top challenges process practitioners face is creating and retaining engagement in process improvement.  Many process improvement leads struggle to get business teams to use and, even better, to suggest improvements to processes.

In fact, in research conducted by Nintex Promapp, 44% of companies said that few to none of their processes are used by employees. This is no doubt linked to the fact that 41% of companies admitted that their processes are not clear and helpful, and only 61% of companies even had their processes documented.

Let’s assume you’ve passed the first hurdle - you’ve captured your processes, and made them as user friendly and as accessible as possible. How do you make sure process improvement efforts don’t stop there?

The end goal of process improvement shouldn’t be process documentation, it should be engaging everyone across the organization in an ongoing, collaborative effort to improve how they do what they do, every day. This requires processes to continually evolve and improve. 

Organization-wide participation and engagement is a critical ingredient to gain the greatest return from your business process management efforts. So how do you get and keep teams engaged in process improvement?

We asked 300 process professionals to share the top tips and tricks they use to create and retain engagement within their teams. Here’s what they recommended:

1. Communicate your process improvement initiatives
Establish a plan to keep your process management efforts top-of-mind with staff. Use a variety of vehicles, from emails to newsletter articles to lunchroom posters, to maintain consistent communications. Some companies even create role plays or produce a video or animation to demonstrate the benefits of easy-to-follow processes for both their staff and customers.

It’s also important to share the communications workload so that it’s easier to manage and maintain. One way to do this is by finding process improvement champions who are willing to take turns sharing a ‘Tip of the Week’ with users.

2. Recognize the efforts of your process heroes
To maintain interest among users, it’s important to give recognition where recognition is due. That can mean instituting easy-to-run acknowledgements like the user of the month, the most innovative improvement suggestion, or the process of the week. 

Some companies have set up a Heroes and Villains (top users versus infrequent users) leaderboard. Others do regular announcements of their newly certified process champions to the rest of the organization.

3. Upskill your employees
Ensure that workers have proper training, ongoing support, and the resources they need to get involved with continuous improvement initiatives.

Train staff right from the start as part of new hire induction so that your expectations around process management discipline, as well as their expectations, are clear. For ongoing support, some businesses hold drop-in sessions during which users can have their questions answered by a process champion.

4. Promote having fun
Recognize that staff engagement in process improvement can be difficult to maintain. Make an effort to proactively address this challenge in a fun way.

Many companies have appealed to people’s competitive instincts by holding competitions, both within teams and across the entire organization. Some businesses have even used gamification – process sprints or virtual scavenger hunts, with clues hidden within processes – to make process improvement fun. 

A small incentive can also drive motivation and participation. To encourage staff, some businesses have introduced process improvement incentives, such as pizza or ice cream parties, movie ticket giveaways or, in some cases, cash bonuses.

5. Lead from the front
There is a lot to be said for senior management buy-in, but you also need ‘process bulldogs’ on the ground to lead the charge for process improvement.

With that in mind, it is important not just to involve the organization’s leadership team in process improvement communications, but to make sure their support is visible to the entire operation. It also helps to build up a strong champion or super-user network so that momentum can be maintained in all areas of the business.

6. Encourage collaboration
Process improvement is a team effort, so it is essential to let everyone know “we’re in this together”.

To demonstrate this, some businesses hold cross-functional process improvement brainstorming sessions to get teams thinking outside the box about process improvement. These sessions can also serve as an opportunity to work through process pain points together, in order to jointly come up with the best improvement ideas.

7. Integrate into business as usual
Embed process information into daily activities and other business systems, like the company intranet, to drive employee engagement.

To drive process usage, some businesses host essential documents that everyone needs to access, making them available only in their business process management tool. Other organizations tie process into personal and team performance outcomes and expectations including KPIs, job descriptions, and personal development programs.

8. Make staff accountable
Give staff the autonomy and resources they need to map, review, and ultimately own their own processes and improvement ideas. This will have a major impact on process engagement.

To empower staff to be accountable, many organizations have set up a dedicated time slot for completing process-related tasks. Some businesses also provide guidelines for dealing with feedback/improvement suggestions including suggested response times from process owners.

9. Understand there will always be room for improvement 
To maintain engagement with process improvement initiatives, it is essential for organizations to recognize that the work will never be done. It really is a journey.

Be open to listening to users’ suggestions and concerns. And if no one is talking about process improvement, ask for their opinions. Businesses should consider conducting their own surveys, to hear what frontline teams experience and identify improvement opportunities. These conversations will prompt action plans that are likely to help focus process improvement efforts and produce valuable results for your organization.

The good news is that although it can be challenging at times, driving engagement with process improvement is not impossible. These examples used by process improvement professionals across more than 300 organizations - from simple communication to system integration – demonstrate that it is possible for teams to be not only engaged, but excited about process improvement. Then when you introduce automation and start to explore how workflows and RPA can eliminate mundane manual tasks, they’ll be knocking down your door with ideas that could revolutionize your processes and with them, your customer experience.

And it’s that kind of engagement and integration that’s key to your BPM success.