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Creating a Workplace Culture of Continuous Improvement

As employers and management, you know above anyone else that it’s your role to embrace the responsibilities of leadership – not just during the good times, but the more challenging periods, too. It’s up to you to steer the ship successfully to ensure your organisation continues to thrive, even when faced with stormy spells.

If you’re looking to move your business forward in a way that prioritises your team’s wellbeing, creating a culture of continuous improvement could be the place to start. Adopting such a working culture will guide your employees toward improved productivity, community, and happiness.

What Do We Mean When We Talk About a Continuous Improvement Culture?

“Practice the philosophy of continuous improvement. Get a little better every single day.”

A culture of continuous improvement is a system of beliefs grounded in the sentiment that whatever may have been good today, might not be good enough tomorrow. In other words, there is always room for improvement – “no matter how good you can get, you can always get better”. This approach promotes the idea that a gradual stream of improvement will ultimately pave the way towards great success within the workplace.

“If you stop improving, you stop evolving.”

Creating a culture of continuous improvement is a long-term process, the aim of which is to achieve small yet frequent changes to improve the overall efficiency of an organisation. A CI approach will empower employees to continuously want to do better, raise morale and wellbeing, and ultimately jumpstart the journey of overall transformation for your business. When implemented effectively, a well-rounded CI culture will naturally ignite that spark of motivation and ambition amongst your team.

With a CI culture, you won’t be steering the ship alone anymore – in fact, your employees will learn the necessary skills and share the responsibility for your success.

Benefits of a Workplace Culture of Continuous Improvement

Creating a culture of continuous improvement will introduce a lot of benefits for both your team and your business – let us look at a few:

  • Heightened Workplace Wellbeing – A culture of CI makes your employees feel supported and valued. It enhances workplace wellbeing by inspiring your team to communicate (even if that means having a challenging conversation), engage gracefully with critical feedback, and support each other. Thus, a CI environment can reduce the stresses and anxieties that sometimes coincide with working life by creating a sense of community.
  • Innovative and Productive Workplace – Workplaces with a strong CI culture are more creative and innovative. They tend to have a lot of new, inventive ideas to manage and implement, which helps push their organisation to new levels of innovation and productivity. This tendency towards creative thinking can also help employees problem-solve.
  • Higher Employee Engagement – A workplace that is founded on a culture of CI engages with its employees more personally. This drives employee engagement levels as your team will feel more valued and appreciated for their work. This recognition will naturally instil a drive to be more motivated and productive.

How can you create a culture of Continuous Improvement in the Workplace?

If you want to reshape your workplace’s culture, it’s important to lay the groundwork so you’re prepared.₁₀ Continuous improvement is a gradual journey that requires regular management, attention, and care.₁₁ As such, here are a few straightforward steps to help guide you down the path of creating a continuously improving workplace:

1. Encourage involvement from everyone!

Let’s envision your team as an engine.₁₂ All parts of an engine must seamlessly collaborate to ensure the success of the overall machine. Therefore, like an engine, your team members must understand their individual functions and work together to guarantee a successful outcome. In other words, you can only achieve a culture of CI if everyone acknowledges their own role in the journey and shares the same vision.₁₃

2. Open communication and transparency

In 2022, a study revealed that 71% of employees believe that when leaders articulate why change is needed in the workplace, there is a much higher chance of achieving a successful corporate transformation.₁₄

It is crucial to be transparent about your goals with everyone in your team. ₁₅Your organisation’s culture must be built upon the foundations of a shared vision which conveys what needs to change and why so that everyone can fulfil their role.

It is also essential to be the listening ear for your employees. Your team members will often be frontline in business operations, meaning they typically possess the most valuable insights into the day-to-day workings of your business. This is vital when working to identify the steps that need to be taken to improve your organisation. ₁₆ Therefore, active listening and communication are vital in getting started on the roadmap towards improvement.

3. Create a safe space! ₁₇

It is essential to keep a door open for others. Being a leader who listens, empathises, and understands will not only boost your workplace’s levels of wellbeing, but will also make employees feel heard and valued. Creating a safe space within the office will encourage and empower employees to be open to feedback, strive to reach their goals, and feel psychologically safe to speak up about anything they want to.

Psychological safety means feeling able to share concerns or opinions without worrying about how you’ll be made to feel as a result. Interested in reading more? You can download our free “Ultimate Guide to Psychological Safety in the Workplace” here.

4. Prioritise support and growth.

To shift the workplace culture into one focusing on improvement, consider adopting a more ‘servant leadership’ approach. ₁₈ This management style is grounded in creating a safe and respectful environment for your employees.

What is servant leadership?

Servant leadership is a style of management which prioritises the support and development of your team.₁₉ It favours personal growth, active listening, employee satisfaction, and empathy, which ultimately boosts wellbeing across the workplace. This leadership style helps to build a community within your team, which can rekindle the flame of motivation and collaboration.

5. Search for improvement

One way to begin your journey down the path of CI is to search for the elements you can improve on. Go straight to the source: ask for your employees’ perspectives, get your clients’ opinions, and make sure you investigate any complaints.₂₀

Utilising CI methodologies such as the ‘5 Whys’₂₁ may help expose the root cause of certain problems.

What is the 5 Whys Method? ₂₂

The 5 Whys is an effective technique that follows this simple structure:

  • Imagine a problem has occurred which leaves a client unhappy.
  • Utilise your first ‘why’ and ask: ‘Why is this client unhappy?’ – let’s say it’s because a delivery was late.
  • Utilise your second ‘why’ and ask: ‘Why was the delivery late?’
  • Continue until you tap away at the outer layers by asking ‘Why?’ five times.
  • After the fifth ‘why?’, you should reveal the root of the problem, and you can now brainstorm how to manage/improve it.

6. Celebrate every small success!

Pursuing a culture of CI in the workplace can be challenging as it requires a lot of effort. It may seem like a tedious process, so you should always celebrate the small successes and milestones you reach along the way. Congratulating everyday achievements will boost your team’s morale, sustain their positive wellbeing, and prove that you value their collective efforts.

7. Keep going!

Finally, keep consistent with the improvements! Build new, improved roadmaps and invest in training to keep things fresh.₂₃ Put time into learning and understanding why and what steps you need to take to change your workplace’s culture.

Here at Thrive4Life, we offer a portfolio of wellbeing resources which can help you improve your team’s health and wellbeing. Here’s a taster:

  • Our Employee Health and Wellbeing Discovery Hub – An easily-accessible online hub of health and wellbeing content that your team can access anytime, anywhere.
  • Our Wellbeing Consultancy services – Experienced health and wellbeing professionals can help you identify wellbeing issues that keep cropping up in your workplace, provide a solution to them, and monitor the impact this strategy has, resulting in a healthier, happier team.

The journey toward a culture of continuous improvement takes discipline, critical thinking, and effort. But just remember: small changes make a big difference. So, have those challenging conversations, inspire one another, empower your team to embrace the journey, and prioritise wellbeing as a fundamental element of sustainable success.

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