According to the American Society for Quality, Six Sigma guidelines suggest three conditions are essential to the success of a quality program: clear quality vision, alignment of company goals, and commitment from leadership
The idea of delivering quality may vary from client to client, but when it comes to implementing a quality program, one thing must be constant: passion. But how do you inspire passion?
We’ll share the approach that has worked for Decision Toolbox, and hope you’ll be able to implement some of these policies in your own business.
Establishing quality starts with passionate people. You can train people on processes and technology, but you need to hire people who already have passion walking through the door. You can interview for certain behaviors and characteristics of passion using questions similar to the following:
- How do you tap into your entrepreneurial spirit when you care for a client? (The ideal response will begin with: “Well, there are so many examples I could share . . .”)
- Using examples, give me an idea of how you respond to quality issues raised by a client? (You’re looking for something like: “Those are the kinds of challenges I love to sink my teeth into!”)
Train Well and Often
Now that you have all this passion flying around your organization, you need to focus it. Let’s assume you’ve hired proven professionals with the right experience and skills, as well as passion. You’ll need to train them not only in your company’s processes and procedures, but also in your quality-oriented, passion-nurturing culture. Part of training should include the fact that you want them to focus on results and building rapport with clients. The goal is to empower people to run with passion.
Also, don’t stop with initial training – provide ongoing training opportunities to help build out a learning runway for your team. Help people set performance goals and when they achieve them, make a really big deal about it, then set the bar higher. These are passionate people, they need challenges to stretch and thrive!
Training and coaching also increase the sticky factor for your own staffing; it’s widely agreed that training promotes employee retention. According to Roberta Matuson’s article on Monster.com, many employers cut training budgets during an economic downturn. If that describes your company, consider training to be an essential part of your quality program and back it up with the appropriate investment.
If strong quality performance is the cake, then kudos are the icing. That means the cake isn’t finished until you slather on those kudos. Employee recognition doesn’t have to be linked to material rewards (bonuses, gift cards, etc.), although there is a time and place for those. Meghan M. Biro, on Forbes.com, offers 5 Ways Leaders Rock Employee Recognition, and she argues that “money is appropriate much of the time, but it’s not the only — or even the most effective – motivator.”
Kudos are fuel for the fires of passion at work. You might offer a monthly or quarterly “Top Performer” award, an on-the-spot “Shining Star” awards, or perhaps a “Great Job!” corner in your employee newsletter. Any recognition serves to “rinse and repeat:” it acknowledges what the team member has done, and motivates that person not only to do it again, but also to reach even higher. Others learn new ways of providing excellence in everything they do. Recognition causes your entire team to be elevated.
Quality is a journey of continuous improvement. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, eternal vigilance is the price of quality. If your quality program doesn’t inspire passion, “eternal vigilance” can become pretty tedious. But ensuring passion in your quality program, you will generate a strong return on investment on many levels, from enhanced employee engagement to increased client retention.
Tom Brennan, Decision Toolbox senior writer contributed to this article.