Having a Catch with Your Employees

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that employee engagement directly impacts a company’s ability to flourish in the market. Actively engaged employees demonstrate a proven desire to work by going the extra mile for their job, and they understand the strategic objectives of their organization. The goal of this post is to explain the importance of holding employees in the highest esteem. Looking at the value statements of almost any organization, employee satisfaction will fall at the top of the list. Though most organizations claim that their employees are their biggest asset, there are simply not enough organizations taking a calculated approach to ensure that employees have what they need to thrive.

In the early 2000s, Campbell’s Soup Company was struggling as its soup offerings were already in the maturity phase of the product lifecycle. With that in mind, Campbell’s had been struggling to make people consume more of its soup. The company even brought in new CEO Doug Conant to revitalize the organization’s culture by reinventing the company at every level. Less than a decade later, the brand has never been stronger. It would be easy to attribute Campbell’s success to Donovan McNabb’s chunky soup ads, but instead Conant credits the company’s success to employee engagement. According to Conant, “to win in the marketplace, we believe you must first win in the workplace. I’m obsessed with keeping employee engagement front and center and keeping energy around it.” Conant’s belief wasn’t just smoke and mirrors, either. In 2002, an outside firm determined that only 38% of Campbell’s management team considered themselves actively engaged in the company while 12% felt they were disengaged (which is the most unfavorable score for any fortune 500 company ever polled). A little over ten years later, 68% of Campbell’s employees claim to be actively engaged.

Engaging the workforce is by no means a simple process; there are serious culture changes that need to occur in order for employees at all levels of the organization to buy into the process. A proven technique for improving employee buy-in emerged from the Hoshin Kanri (Strategy / Policy Management) methodology. Hoshin Kanri has been used extensively in Japan for over 30 years, but its adoption in the west has been limited. This methodology adopts a tool known as catch ball to empower the workforce.

Catch ball works just like it sounds. The methodology begins with an objective or plan from the top level of an organization. The idea is tossed down a level where direct reports critique it and offer suggestions. Essentially, catch ball is an iterative debate between varying levels of the organization that occurs until consensus on a goal is reached. Before closing a discussion while using the catch ball methodology, the different levels must also gain consensus on how that goal can be reached. The result is a plan that the organization, as a whole, has developed.

Hoshin Karin

Every organization has untapped potential, and it should be the goal of C-level executives to develop their employees’ skills. Employees will be more satisfied with their position in the company due to the attentive management style demonstrated by their leaders. Companies should assume the responsibility of engaging their workforce at every level. Over time, using inclusive strategic methods such as catch ball opens new channels of communication between company leaders and process owners, greatly improving the quality of the company’s shared knowledge of day to day functions within the organization.

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