The advantages of continuous improvement go beyond ROI. From motivated teams and reduced wastage to a stronger brand image, these are the 10 benefits that come with process excellence.
Written by: Deborah Biscomb, Head of Marketing
As your business traverses the world of continuous improvement it is always useful to reinforce the benefits that are associated with this business management system.
While you can focus on explaining the details when it comes to value, as covered here, there are some universal benefits which can be brought into any discussion about improvement.
Whether it is the business case for adopting continuous improvement, or motivating your project teams and wider business, here are 10 benefits you need to know as you lead improvement in your business.
1. Embrace the 'new normal'
Considerable conversations have been had around ‘the new normal’ thanks to COVID-19 in 2020, and that extends beyond the where we work into the how and when.
In all actuality, workers have evolved beyond the tradition of 9-5, Monday-Friday schedules. Not only are we working from home more often, but we’re also working non-traditional hours, secondments, job shares and fixed-term contracts.
That shift in working pattern means companies must, and are, adjusting the structure of their employee’s contracts.
With continuous improvement your business will introduce projects into its working patterns. This change is often swept under the rug as a benefit.
Projects open your business up to internal part-time moves, external talent who are only looking for seasonal work, and means you can invest in continually improving your employees’ skill set and introduce new talent when, and where, necessary.
2. Voice of the customer
The business world has evolved tremendously since the days of building products and selling them as a matter of fact.
We are in the digital age where customers come first. They spend considerable time researching prior to making a purchase.
To that end, continuous improvement rightly places the customer first. Metrics of success will be based on defects in products, return rates, net promoter score, among others.
The voice of the customer is firmly in your ear, and for good reason. Not only to let you know of your performance to day (outside of your share of their wallet), but they can and will feed your new product development and improvement projects.
3. Reduced errors and wastage
By adopting a continuous improvement approach you are making a commitment to identifying issues in processes to limit the likelihood of errors.
That concentrated effort means that there’s less likelihood you will incur issues as you produce your product / deliver your service.
That limited error rate, referred as defects per million opportunities in Six Sigma jargon, also reduces wastage.
As you reduce the number of errors in your processes, the consequences is that you become more proficient with delivering a strong customer experience.
That means you’ll have less instances where you waste resources, such as a printing error which harms customer relations, costs money in reprints, and in more severe cases, training efforts to ensure staff follow processes.
Operational efficiencies, and eventually excellence is the destination, and reducing errors and wastage are the drivers to achieving that state within your business
4. Operational efficiencies and excellence
With a focus on removing the 8 wastes, such as wasted motion, spend, broken components and more, you will reach a state of process efficiency.
When this process efficiency is achieved you can then look to transfer the new found knowledge to other processes where applicable.
Operational excellence is achieved by implementing this systematic approach of measuring and improving across your entire organization.
5. Stronger brand image
A natural benefit of continuous improvement is that your brand image will improve.
Because by putting in place concentrated efforts to optimize your processes and systems you will provide better quality products and service.
You can consolidate different material and labor, and this will lead to less customer complaints and product returns.
6. More satisfied customers
The increase in brand equity through optimized processes has another effect in that you can divert once wasted sources towards innovation and diversifying your product / service set to meet your customers’ current and future needs.
The continuous improvement culture is not solely about process excellence, its roots extend into the world of innovation by empowering your employees to suggest ideas and implement these, where appropriate.
By listening to the voices of your team you begin to encourage more ideas for streamlining and enhancing your products.
Be it the product design, packaging, purpose or manufacturing, your team will have greater pride in the end product, and that only means positive things for your customers.
7. Increased employee engagement
To set the scene, consider this statistic:
The number of employees who are disengaged at work has averaged 70% for near two decades
And increased engagement does have its benefits...
Companies with a high level of employee engagement are more profitable by a factor of 21%
Continuous improvement has people at its core. It is designed to empower employees to identify and solve problems that hinder their daily work.
In fact, it serves to demonstrate that their voice and input is invaluable, and indeed it is.
With improvement as a company-wide lens, employees are no longer simply doers, instead they become central to business processes, not just the outcome.
8. Lower staff turnover and associated costs
Turnover in your business is expensive.
On average, the cost of staff turnover is $30,000
When you consider the financial impact of having to recruit, train and then rehire staff who are disengaged or unhappy, the cost of instilling improvement in an organization is relatively inexpensive.
A better working environment and engaged workforce means that these costs will inevitably fall.
By empowering your company to work better within their teams and across functions and divisions through improvement frameworks and software, you provide new challenges and opportunities for growth and personal fulfilment of your staff.
If your team members know they’re making a difference, that’ll make all the difference to their longevity in your business.
9. Unified, passionate and knowledge-seeking employees
Continuous improvement acts as the glue which binds together your business as it seeks to deliver a better customer experience.
Every part of your organization contributes to the success, and as such means a unified, passionate workforce.
By training and empowering your team to contribute it provides opportunities for knowledge-seekers to truly excel.
More broadly, with well-defined goals, communicated plans and easy systems to measure and course correct performance, your business will be in a place where they can move beyond its comfort zone.
Optimizing processes and innovating across the business is a large change, but by using the right frameworks, tools and people you can maintain and sustain a continuous improvement culture.
Adopting this approach improves your teams’ skills and knowledge, and ensure your business stays ahead of its competition.
10. Increased profits
The conversation around revenue has been left to last in this benefit list as there is much more to be gained than profit, but it is still an important advantage that cannot be left unmentioned.
If you can produce more products with less effort and costs and they sell, this increases your profits.
But, you can also consider adapting your pricing strategy.
Because if your product quality increases, as too your brand image, your consumers will be more likely to accept an increased cost.
Continue learning about continuous improvement
The benefits of continuous improvement are far reaching and extend beyond monetary measures.
Whether it’s increasing employee morale through participation or variation in their work, or increasing the your product’s quality, improvement is a system which truly delivers value.
Click here to learn more about continuous improvement, or take a look at these content recommendations:
- Continuous improvement in 2020 and beyond Watch how continuous improvement will evolve into the 2020s and how you can be successful.
- DMAIC v Six Sigma v Lean: Our guide to the steps and tools you'll need when driving process improvement through one of these three methodologies.
- The Leader's Guide to Continuous Improvement: Download this eBook to get a comprehensive overview of how DMAIC, Six Sigma, Lean, PDCA can support your business in finding competitive advantage.
About the author
Deborah Biscomb is Head of Marketing at i-nexus. Deborah has wide-ranging experience of markets such as retail, manufacturing, financial services, public sector, telecommunications, energy and utilities, distribution and logistics. As Head of Marketing, her drive is to raise awareness and understanding of the challenges facing enterprises in controlling their strategy and driving superior results.