Continuous improvement is a philosophy you use to guide changes in your job shop, but it’s also a promise to your employees that you’re invested in the greater good. A worthy goal, to be sure, but it begs the question: Are any improvements you see in your job shop the direct result of what you’ve actually done, or because your employees were motivated to work harder and perform better because you’ve simply made an effort to do something?
The answer has little to do with your employees on the whole, but rather human nature.
The Hawthorne Effect
The psychology behind gaining productivity in the workplace has fascinated scientists for decades. Perhaps the most famous study dates back to the 1950s, when researcher Henry A. Landsberger dug into experiments conducted decades earlier that ultimately suggested employee productivity increased when they were part of a research project, but decreased once the experiment was over.
Fast forward to 2009, when researchers at the University of Chicago took issue with the original data and found that factors beyond the attention paid to them inspired employees to alter behaviors. Feedback to employees during the experiment, for example, was linked to better productivity as was the novelty of being observed. The results were deemed equivalent to the Placebo Effect in which medical patients are treated with faux medications, but report improved conditions.
What does all this mean to your job shop? Productivity is largely a mindset.
Mind Over Matter
Applying the concept to your job shop, it’s important to understand that changes you make are responsible for the results, but not in the way you may initially think. Implementing changes based on your continuous improvement strategy sends a signal to workers that you’re interested in making them productive, not just keeping them busy. The perception is a boost in positive psychology, meaning your employees are personally fulfilled, satisfied in their jobs, confident, and perfectly willing to work hard for the mutual success of your job shop and themselves.
On some level, your employees are genetically predisposed to wanting work that offers self-actualization. Your job shop can provide what they want and encourage productivity with a few proven activities:
- Get (and stay) involved: Develop an action plan around your continuous improvement strategy and involve your employees in executing it.
- Provide feedback to employees: Empower your employees with the information they need to maximize performance. They appreciate the fact that you want them to succeed, and that it’s important enough to you and the business overall to invest the necessary time and resources.
- Build teams: Ensuring employees that they’re not alone fosters camaraderie and significant improvement in willingness to tackle—and resolve—complex, productivity-robbing problems.
- Provide growth opportunities: Like feedback, having realistic pathways to betterment, promotion, or both motivates employees to set goals, overcome obstacles, and use their strengths in productivity-enhancing ways.
Psychology has proven that humans, by nature, need to feel supported, successful, and satisfied to work at peak productivity and, in some cases, even double down their efforts. Taking steps in your job shop to demonstrate your commitment to continuous improvement will bring out the best in your employees, and make them even greater assets to your organization.