Blog Post | Employee Feedback
July 27, 2023
When my husband and I got engaged, we did what every modern day couple does: started a wedding registry. On the long list of items that we received was a set of drinking glasses (from a vendor that shall not be named). We quickly learned that the glasses were flimsy when one broke in the dishwasher within just a week of arrival. During our first year of marriage, the glasses continued to break one by one until eventually we were down to just one glass. My husband and I often cited the bad omen and joked that when the last glass broke, it was a clear sign to call it quits.
I, however, was determined to not let that happen. So I began scouring the web for high quality glassware fit to handle the long tenure of a marriage. After researching user reviews, I finally landed on a set of tumbler glasses from Libbey (these are the ones). With my fingers crossed and hopes set high, I added the glasses to my online shopping cart, checked out, and anxiously awaited my delivery. I prayed that my last remaining glass would hold steady until the new ones arrived.
When I received the new glasses, the improved quality was instantly recognizable. They looked stronger, felt much sturdier in my hands, and they didn’t fall over in the dishwasher. My husband, who is particular persnickety regarding household purchases, even commented on the quality. “Good choice,” he praised. I breathed a sigh of relief… marriage saved!
Fast forward a few years to today — the summer of 2023. I’m working at WorkStep, a holistic employee engagement and listening solution for the supply chain sector. And much to my bemusement, I find out that I am newly connected on LinkedIn to Jim Burmeister, Chief Operating Officer at Libbey. At that moment, I simply knew I had to share my story and beg him to spill his secrets on quality control.
A happy coincidence? No, it is something more. If that first glass didn’t break then I would have never sought out and purchased glassware from Libbey. When I stumbled across our mutual connection on LinkedIn, I wouldn’t have recognized the company’s name. And I would not have reached out to Burmeister to share his insights for this piece. In truth, the quality of Libbey’s products itself is what brought us together today to tell this story.
So, without further ado, Burmeister shares how to leverage employee feedback to improve quality control:
During our casual conversation, Burmeister highlighted the crucial role that employee engagement plays in maintaining quality standards in manufacturing. He pointed out that consistent quality, productivity, and employee engagement are all interconnected.
“When you look at employee engagement, when you look at safety metrics, when you look at quality… they tend to go directionally hand-in-hand,” he said. “If you’re looking at a safety problem at a plant, you see the same symptoms across those other areas because it all comes down to attention to detail and communication. If those two things don’t work, you can’t produce quality products, you don’t see productivity, you don’t see engagement, and you don’t see good retention,” he observed.
Burmeister emphasized the importance of creating a work environment where employees feel heard and are encouraged to bring up ideas. “When you create an environment where the frontline workers are really passionate about their work and also know that they’re heard and encouraged to bring up ideas both positive and negative, you get a much faster response to opportunities and risks, and you get a much better outcome,” he remarked.
Employee feedback can also support identifying bottlenecks and innovating solutions. “Usually the person closest to the process has the best visibility as to what works and what doesn’t. If something’s going wrong or, preferably, when something goes great, how do you repeat it?” Burmeister shared.
Therefore, the feedback of individuals working directly with the processes is invaluable for process improvement — often the frontline workers themselves.
WorkStep offers real-time employee feedback collection and loop closure functionality. Together, this supports the identification of these opportunities and risks, recommends targeted actions, and gives organizations the ability to close the loop with employees. These things combined help demonstrate to frontline workers that they are, indeed, heard and valued while also supporting the business’s key objectives.
There’s a crucial connection between quality standards and safety in a manufacturing setting. “A safe workforce is a high-quality workforce, is a productive workforce,” Burmeister called out.
The emphasis on safety can lead to better quality, productivity, and lower costs. But, more than that, safety is also a deeply personal issue for employees. And so, when employees feel safe, this can help drive further engagement and loyalty.
He also suggested that adopting safety as a habit can be a beneficial approach. “Safety is a good place to start usually because it’s much more personal. [When you have that] behavior turned on for safety, you get the productivity, you get the repeatable processes with high-quality products as a byproduct,” he said.
Frontline employee engagement platforms like WorkStep can support identifying safety issues in real-time and recommend targeted actions to address safety issues. The positive safety outcomes correlate to increased productivity and quality.
Burmeister is a Black Belt in Lean Sigma, so I was especially interested in hearing how he translates employee engagement themes into the Lean Six Sigma process. He explained that change management, which focuses on the people side of things, is crucial for achieving and sustaining progress within an organization.
He further suggested that employee engagement tools can be extremely useful within the Lean Six Sigma process. These tools provide a way to activate the strategy and make sure employees are engaged and driving action.
WorkStep’s targeted actions can support change management by offering recommendations to drive business outcomes. And its impact tracker gives organizations the ability to monitor the business impact of various frontline employee programs and initiatives. This analysis can further support understanding the change management process.
Tori Cook, Director of Demand Generation | firstname.lastname@example.org
Tori Cook is the Director of Demand Generation at WorkStep. With a proven track record of generating impactful results, Tori is passionate about sharing her expertise in operations, marketing, and workplace culture with the WorkStep blog readers.