The importance of continuous improvement in an organisation
As for an organisation, recruiting a wonderful staff with talented and ambitious people is the first step towards building a successful organization. However, after that, sharpening and maintaining the quality of the staff are no less important, especially in the fast-developing world where technologies and sciences evolve on a daily basis. This is where continuing education comes into place, and companies should take managers' and employees' continuous improvement seriously in order to gain an edge over their competitors. Here are the reasons why continuous improvement matters for leaders and employees in all organisations regardless of their fields of operation.
Prepare for the next generation of leaders
For the current leaders and future leaders of a company, continuous education is even more important. While many schools and academies try to design the curriculum and teach classes about leadership, the best environment to learn to become a true leader is at work. Schools and academies can train students to design a business strategy, make financial reports, and manage accounts and inventories. However, leaders do more than just those responsibilities. They work with people, learn how to manage them and inspire the employees to reach their full potentials. Therefore, with working experience and interpersonal skills gained from their work, continuing education provides leaders wit further insights into their existing understanding, reinforce their leadership skills and they can apply the new knowledge directly to their work and learn more by doing so.
Improve learned skills and acquire new ones
For leaders and employees alike, it is very crucial for them to engage in continuing studies not only to reinforce the knowledge and skills they learned in the past, but also to gain the ones that were not taught at their previous schools and academies. Nowadays, new scientific discoveries are made every day, not just in natural sciences but also in social sciences and businesses. For example, in recent years, the Internet has revolutionized and taken control of people's ways of communicating, doing research, and conducting businesses. However, those who went to schools during the 1980s did not even know what Internet was. Therefore, employees and leaders definitely need to keep themselves current with new technologies, business practices, strategies and skills to improve their productivity, and keep the company from falling behind with its competitors. In addition, employees who master new skills also gain an advantage over those who do not, and they also stand a higher chance of getting promoted. Leaders who spend great efforts in further improvement earn respect from their staff, and become more valuable to the company.
How should continuous improvement be undertaken?
Foster an organisational culture that rewards continuous improvements
As both leaders and staff actively take part in continuous improvement, they bolster this behaviour and create an organisational culture that appreciate learning and personal growth. When employees realise that self-improvement means rewards, and even their leaders continuously find ways to improve themselves, they have stronger motivations to continue their studies. This culture helps a company to become more productive and competitive in its industry. In fact, most of the biggest and most successful companies in the world are well-known for wholeheartedly supporting their employees to advance their education and reach for higher aims.
Reduce turnover rate
Contrary to employers' concerns that employees might just take the chance to go to school and leave the organisation after they finish their study and find a better employment opportunity, the fact turns out that companies offering better continuing education opportunities have a higher rate of retention. When the company's leaders show that they are willing to invest in improving their staff's capability, they also indicate that they place significant value on the employees that are committed to self-growth and career development. Thus, those who compete their study and stay will be likely to become key leaders of the company in the future. Besides, many people consider continuous improvement opportunities as an invaluable fringe benefit, and choose to work for companies that provide these opportunities.
Facilitate the decision-making process
In many organisations, many decisions made by the top management leaders are viewed by staff as ambiguous decisions made by those who do not understand the actual procedures the staff perform their tasks. On the other hand, many leaders view the staff’s hesitance to carry out the decision as their failure to understand the big picture. In this case, continuous improvement provides an opportunity for both employees and managers to reach out and gain a thorough understanding of the organisation’s general visions and detailed work processes. Consequently, managers can make better decisions and employees can completely grasp and support the implementation of the plan.
Tips to successfully implement continuous improvement
- Identify what needs to be improved and prioritise what should be done first
- Identify who should be involved in the process
- Set the goals of the process
- Explain the process in details for the staff
- Encourage top management’s participation
- Enforce deadlines and keep track of the process’ progress
- Learning by doing
- Be creative and think about of the box
- Constantly ask for feedbacks to improve the process
- Reward achievements and penalize failure
One company that has always been known for its continuous improvement and earns great success thanks to its efforts is Apple. Apple has not only been a perfect example of corporate innovation – the launch of the iPod in 2001 revolutionized the music industry; 2007’s iPhone shocked the mobile phone market; and the iPad in 2010 kicked off a whole new product category – but also remained passionately about continuously improving its products. For example, since the first generation of iPhone, each year, the company adds new features to its phones, actively anticipating customers’ needs and satisfying them. Apple’s organizational culture embraces and fosters innovation, encouraging its employees to always challenge and compete against themselves. With these endeavors, Apple has become one of the most successful companies in the world.
Overall, continuous improvement plays a critical role in a company's development strategy. Continuous improvement should focus not only on company leaders but employees as well, and should become part of the organisational culture. Many schools and academies partner with companies and offer great programmes for continuing education and even customised programmes to cater all needs. The programmes are usually very flexible to fit the busy personal and professional schedules of these types of learners.