I would like to tell you a story. I want to tell you a story that repeats itself very often. In an environment where there is no concept of flow and work gets pushed onto teams expectations become unrealistic. 

When the focus is on starting more work rather than finishing old work, results get delayed. Management feels the urgency to push even more work to make up for the delays. Employees work overtime trying to handle all the requests regardless of their lack of capacity. Requests continue to increase despite of all their efforts. People get tired. Constant context switching leads to poor results. Work gets abandoned. Commitments get broken.

Fingers start pointing at each other, there is no trace of motivation or engagement at all anymore. Working environment becomes toxic. People feel like their work brings no value. There is no appreciation, trust or respect. One after another, they start packing their office boxes and they leave.

Voluntary Turnover Costs U.S. Businesses $1 Trillion

Voluntary Turnover is a problem that’s costing the US economy $1 Trillion according to Gallup.

A trillion US dollars. The worst part is that this problem is self-inflicted by organizations, while this problem is fixable. Managers could have prevented their talent from walking away, and avoided losing up to two times of their annual salary in turnover costs. 

When people leave, they cause immense stress on your business. Your employees and all their knowledge of your company walk away through that door. The fact is that the most talented workers are the first to leave when disengaged. This is a cardinal sin of management. Seeing your rarest talent walk away when they’re easiest to engage and most expensive to replace.

People Are The Most Valuable Element In Any Organization

It is very important to retain your employees. I can’t stress that enough. Doesn’t it make more sense to grow your own performers to retain knowledge, avoid turnover, keep the costs down and focus on increasing productivity and efficiency? It’s all about trust, respect and appreciation. If your employees are engaged, have a purpose and feel motivated, they’ll be able to handle any objective you challenge them with and go the extra mile to provide amazing results.

Such teams are excited about the work they do every day and strive to go above and beyond their usual routine to accomplish excellent results. That’s because they know the effort they put into their job will be worthwhile.

What Could You Do To Sustain Employee Engagement?

There is a straightforward way to keep your workforce engaged and motivated. The Kanban Method suggests an approach of managing the flow of work instead of workers. It’s a system that works upon the speed and efficiency of your process by minimizing waste and team overburden. It switches the focus from individual to collective performance. Let’s see which Kanban practices are most effective drivers of engagement in your workplace.

Implement a WIP-limited Kanban Pull System

Switching to a pull system is one of the simplest ways of promoting engagement. Pull systems relieve overburden by enabling performers to start new work at their own pace. Kanban pull systems significantly improve efficiency and decrease delivery times. 

Kanban pull system with pull signals

However, your processes can still get stuck if there is too much work in progress. With too much WIP, your team will be forced to constantly switch the context trying to handle all work at once. Constant context switching is not effective and it comes with its cost. Multitasking makes your team members feel busier while delivering less. Too much WIP leads to overburden and poor service quality.

You need to control the amount of work that goes in and out of the system to prevent that effect. Implementing WIP limits helps your team complete work faster by staying focused. The point is to get more things done rather than doing more things.

The approach of finishing work in progress before starting new work is fundamental. With WIP-limited Kanban pull systems, delivery times reduce, which greatly empowers your employees. Your team will be able to adapt to change more quickly and your organization will move forward faster as a whole. That’s crucial for sustainable business agility.

Eliminate Bottlenecks to Maximise Process Efficiency

Once you implement a Kanban pull system, you can start tracking basic flow metrics like cycle times, throughput and wip. That will give you an understanding of the efficiency of your flow and signal if things have started to go south. Queue states play an important role here.

By observing your queue states, you can assess how much time work is sitting idle. Keeping track of waiting time will help you reveal bottlenecks in your system. If there’s too much work in a queue state, it becomes immediately visible on the Cumulative Flow Diagram.

Cumulative flow diagram with metrics

The Cumulative Flow Diagram is a handy analytics tool that shows the amount of work in each process state as colored bands. Ideally, those bands that represent queue states should disappear or remain very thin. If they start getting wider this means more work is sitting idle and most probably your team is struggling with demand. 

Every process has arrival and departure lines – these are the top and bottom lines in your CFD. Ideally, these should remain parallel – this means work is leaving your process at the same rate it’s entering it. It denotes that you balance demand with capacity. This makes your system more stable and predictable as WIP stays constant.

Have you noticed how the focus moves from individuals to teams? We’re not interested in individual performance anymore, but rather start observing the efficiency of our collective effort. 

Nave enables teams to focus on improving workflow efficiency. Choose your platform today and deliver outstanding customer value sooner with our range of analytical charts.

Foster Communication and Provide Regular Feedback 

High turnover, depleted productivity, low morale – all of these are most often caused by communication problems.

Your employees see problems. They’re facing them every day. They also have ideas and experiments they’d like to run to potentially solve those problems. But if they don’t have a chance to speak their mind, the cycle of disengagement continues. It’s crucial you take initiative instead of waiting on them to make the first move.

The Kanban Method suggests 7 essential cadences you can use to foster communication between all parties.

The purpose of these cadences can be divided into three groups: Getting things done, Doing the right things and Doing things better each of them feeding the others with new information. 

Kanban cadences

Invite everyone interested to participate and contribute. Listen to your employees and make it clear they are being heard by taking visible, punctual action upon it. There’s no better way of showing your team they have been heard and that their feedback matters. Ultimately, you empower a culture of trust, respect and appreciation.

When Work is Fun, More Things Get Done

We’ve seen how the Kanban Method promotes workplace engagement through its core practices. People show up to work and get involved, not because they’re paid to do so, but because they’re invested in what they do. Because they care. They create better results not because they have to, but because they want to.

So where do you begin? Start by seeing your employees as the most important aspect of your organization. Remember that being responsive to the needs of your employees is equally important to being responsive to the needs of your customers.

Give freedom to your people to work at their own pace and make the most of their time. Give them the power to influence your decision-making process. Give them the voice to speak up and bring their ideas to the table. Trust, respect and appreciate each and every one of them. You’re effectively creating a culture of engagement where leadership is shared and potential is unleashed.

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