Driving UK business

A recent survey, carried out in six countries, suggests that Britain’s workforce is one of the least satisfied and least enthusiastic in the western world.

Not surprisingly, according to the 6,000 people that took part in the research, it says that the lowest levels of enthusiasm are found within companies that are poorly motivated.

Senior managers are to blame for failing to motivate their workforce and the survey found that this reflected on staff. Businesses need their workforces to be enthusiastic and committed if they are to keep up with the pace of change in today’s environment.
However, in the property industry, there are signs that the workforce is motivated and enthusiastic with a low industry leaving rate according to recent findings at Hunter Finance. Hunter work with a large number of property companies and in a recent survey and found that these companies have on the whole an excellent employee retention rate.

“Of course it does depend on which sector you are in within property” More.

For the last 20 or so years, the exploitation of new technology has been a major challenge for those businesses wishing to flourish and prosper. Companies that failed to jump on the bandwagon at the right time, either too early or too late, have had their competitive edge eroded and in some cases, their market slashed. So the tools of the trade have changed and continue to do so. But people have changed too. Put at its most basic level ‘ the people coming into organisations from school, colleges or university have very different expectations of the workplace from 20 years ago.

If the workplace doesn’t give them what they need then it’s up sticks and off to somewhere else that will. Organisations need people to help them change and people need organisations that can and are able to be changed. It’s a two-way street.

This does not just apply to new technology, but also to the ‘softer’ characteristic mechanisms of organisations ‘ the social aspects ‘ as encapsulated by the term ‘organisational culture’. In order to change one needs to be changeable. So what is keeping you from moving forward? Are your culture and systems keeping you stuck in the mud?

The detractors of a systems management approach to an organisation’s processes would say that, whilst there is massive benefit in consistency and uniformity, these systems are more difficult to change, they create inertia and prevent organisations from being responsive to external forces, be it from the market or new technology ‘ they make it more difficult for a business to keep on its toes.

In the firing line for many management, commentators have been the ISO9001:2000 quality management standard. Many of the criticisms refer to the apparent controlling nature of the significant number of systems that have resulted from the implementation of its requirements.

These are seen as top-down implementations where the ‘what gets done’ is defined by those who are somewhat removed from where the work gets done. These systems reinforce the controlling organisational culture and become obstacles to change.

“The workforce is not able to contribute ‘ they are required to do what the systems say, no deviations accepted. This situation is further exacerbated if the inhouse quality manager sees his role as ‘policeman’ or ‘firefighter’ and acts accordingly. Employees in this culture either shut up and become disengaged or ship out.” Says Harris Lighting.

People who want to exercise more control over their own life and work, move on to look for more fulfilment and higher levels of job satisfaction. As a consequence, the organisation’s ability to ‘keep on its toes’ is further diminished, because these are the very people the organisation needs to retain to help it change, adapt and improve.

Perhaps this is a familiar picture but it doesn’t have to be like this! ISO9001:2000 has come a long way since the days of its first incarnation in BS5750. Some would say not far enough and for which there is some justification.

There is no doubt that this sophisticated model for managing quality could be improved and will always need improving as society and workplace change. But this is no reason why it cannot be exploited for the benefit of organisations that are prepared to grasp the nettle and use it as a means of engaging their staff in the very important business of improvement.

The development and changing definition of what gets done can become the means by which employees become more engaged with their work.

Employees who know what the objectives are and are able to take control over how the objectives are to be met will be more enthusiastic and satisfied.
Indeed, teams need to reach a common understanding of what needs to be done in order to produce that very desirable uniformity and consistency. What better way to achieve this than to allow teams to control and define their own operational definitions of what needs to be done.

My co-directors and I have personally experienced much greater levels of workforce commitment and enthusiasm within client organisations when the correct arrangements are made to put the responsibility for quality in its rightful place.” Cherry Tree Builders UK

Replacing the in-house quality management resource with an outsourced, highly skilled and experienced quality manager can be a great help in this respect. The outsourced quality manager has no executive authority and is therefore seen as an independent facilitator of improvement. The quality system, rather than attempting to control, becomes the workforce’s expression of how the work currently gets done and forms the foundation for any further improvement that the people doing the work think is necessary and appropriate.

Quality systems do not have to be tablets of stone. With the right attention, they can become engines for change and improvement in business performance, resulting in a better bottom line. And you get to keep your staff too.