Monday, December 21, 2009

Guest Post: Happy Employees = Happy Share Holders

This is a guest blog post by Ankit Patel, CEO of The Lean Way Consulting. You can follow Ankit's thoughts on his blog or find him on Twitter @AnkitTheLeanWay.

Only 1 in 5 employees is willing to go the extra mile for the company. Many times we look at lean from the P&L aspect and forget the most important part about lean, the people. It is commonly known that if you do a lean implementation correctly you will have great financial results. The thing that doesn't get publicized is the fact that part (I would argue all) of the success comes from having a happier and more engaged work force. But why are people happier? Are you paying them more? Are you giving them more rewards?

I'm a big fan of continuous improvement on everything including my own life. I have listened and practiced to Tony Robbins materials and the way he models human satisfaction and happiness is by the six human needs:

1) Certainty
2) Variety
3) Significance
4) Connection
5) Growth
6) Contribution

In other words if you have all six then you will be a pretty happy individual.

We like to have a certain amount of stability to what we do. With lean we measure to certain outcomes so stability and certainty are a major part.

Ironically we don't like too much certainty. We need some spice by adding in variety. Continuous improvement is a way of life with lean so if you aren't constantly changing and trying to get better you are not practicing lean. Lean also encourages cross training so you may not work in the same area all the time.

Everyone wants recognition and the feeling of importance. Lean turns the work area over to the people who run the work area. They have control and feel like they have ownership of the area and the responsibility to take care and improve their area. Their roles become 100x more significant once they have those responsibilities.

We want a connection with others; we are after all social creatures. With lean we have a more team oriented approach that tends to bond team members together. People have to communicate more with each other and once the system is viewed as the problem then it stops the finger pointing and helps with bringing people closer together.

We want to grow and develop from our current state. Most companies that implement lean implement cross training that gives people growth opportunities. People also grow by learning new skill sets that come with a lean environment.

We like to give back and throw in our two cents. In a lean environment this is an expectation of everyone. Contribution is rewarded even if it isn't fruitful.

You can see why lean is so great for employee satisfaction. You notice pay isn't on the list and in fact if you look at other lists money is never the #1 factor. If you want to improve your bottom line look to make your workforce happier.


  1. Building a culture of engagement and employee motivation is important. You want employees willing to do something extra when called for.

    But employee motivation is not about stuff. It's not asking employees "what do you want?" and then giving it to them. People often confuse "respect for people" with softness and pleasantries.

    (Almost) everyone wants to be part of something bigger than them. Show them that they can be and that they are, and you can get that little extra something. And by the way, so do they.

  2. Jamie,
    I find that the #1 factor in motivating people is significance/contribution. They want to be heard and make a difference in their work.

    The majority fall into that category but occasionally you do have people that significance or contribution isn't what they are looking for (aka managers who already have at least a perception of both. For them the other factors are important.


  3. Jamie,
    I've noticed that the main factor that motivates people is a combination of the significance/contribution elements. You're right about having respect for people goes a very long way!

    For the other folks whom significance and contribution isn't as important because they get it in other aspects of their life (or like managers you have the perception of both) the other factors play a key role.

    Great thoughts!

  4. But isn't showing respect in a financial way important also. For example, if an employee knows that he/she is not receiving wages competitive with others in their field or if they have to perform work that was not listed in their original tasks they would feel that they were being taken advantage of. Therefore the employee would be less likely to perform 100% or take pride in their work.
    Another area in employee relations would be to ensure that other employees are performing their job duties and not having other employees do it all.
    I have found in my 12 years of management that employee moral will fall quickly when they are taken advantage of either by an employer or another employee.

  5. Anon,
    You are correct. These guidelines are under the assumption you are paying the employees a sufficient amount. You can in some circumstances pay less and still have happy productive workers but it is much harder to do. It is a factor but not the be all end all factor and we need to consider other items.