Companies who want their employees to help put their core values can take steps to empower them to do so.

Gary Homan

Employees tend to have a strong desire to participate in the decision-making process within their places of employment. Typically, the employee feedback has proven highly beneficial for improving a variety of processes that result in lower operational costs.

Implementing employee focus areas aligned to the company vision or mission statements is a convenient method to offer employees this participation opportunity. These focus areas can be considered core values. Establishing these core values helps to ensure everyone is aligned in support of the company values and ideals. This approach clearly assists in guiding employee ideas and suggestions into meaningful areas of improvements and savings for the company.

It is helpful to begin by identifying approximately five or six core values. As progress is made within initial core values, additional values can be added or the existing core values can be further developed to enable a more in-depth suggestion effort. Once the core values are agreed upon, listing them in order of priority is equally important. The following represent five prioritized core values that should fit well within any business or organization, and are listed in order of importance: safety, quality, constraints, cost reduction and employee development.

A company would be wise to develop an employee communication forum to promote regular open discussion of ideas and implement previously-shared employee suggestions. This meeting is intended to be a stand-up, quick verbal discussion and should range from a minimum of five minutes to a maximum of 15 minutes. This type of communication meeting should be regularly scheduled and involve as many employees as possible. Although this meeting detracts immediately from the expected output, typically the gain to the company far exceeds the cost of the meeting in a very short time period.

Each employee suggestion shared in this meeting should be recorded and noted alongside the pertinent core value. Recording this information could be accomplished through the use of a dry erase board or some other agreed-upon means to keep record of action items. The noted action or comment should include who was assigned to address the action. Typically these open items are reviewed each meeting to determine whether progress is being made or whether the effort should be discontinued.

Points of Discussion

Depending on the concerns at the time the core values are created, any number of questions or areas of specific focus might be utilized. The following examples of questions or actions, in support of each core value, are offered as points of discussion when developing your respective company focus areas.

  • Safety –The intent of this core value is to prevent risk of injury to the employee, product, equipment and company as a whole. Housekeeping could be included, if this would enhance safety aspects. Periodically, some level of safety training pertaining to the majority of employees might be included, such as lifting techniques and stretching. Safety is important even for administrative employees, where they might be subjected to a variety of office injuries.

  • Quality-The intent of this core value is to understand the expectation associated to a specific job performance and ensure adequate tools, equipment, material and training were adequately provided. Successful accomplishment of this core value is achieved by noting the elimination of waste in each of these areas, thus reducing company cost.

  • Constraints-This core value identifies areas preventing employee output success. Constraints can be identified in a number of different areas. They may include equipment or tools, process, training or manpower. For example, if an unplanned equipment failure is identified as a recurring problem, management might assign someone to determine if the equipment issues are being properly addressed during the time allotted for preventative maintenance work. A similar approach might be used to address process failure, improved employee training or determination whether additional manpower is required to achieve the expected results.

  • Cost Reduction- All companies desire identification of cost reduction opportunities. I have found employees to be one of the best initial sources of ideas to accomplish this objective. Generally, employees have ideas of what can be done to increase output or improve output quality, all of which have merit. The concern is whether the employee’s ideas may have a negative impact as product flows into another area or operation. To this extent, management must take care to ensure the suggested cost reduction does not impact the overall process or product output in other areas. I suggest a full engineering review prior to immediate implementation of these types of employee suggestions.

    Regardless of whether the idea is implemented, the employee offering the suggestion should always be recognized for his or her suggestion in front of his or her peers during this same communication forum. On the other hand, employees have many ideas that can easily and quickly be implemented without requiring an engineering review. These types of suggestions might be as simple as turning off area lights, turning off equipment not in use or closing doors.

  • Employee Development-Depending on the company’s desire to groom employees, this effort can easily span from a simple cross training effort into a formal training organization or companywide university. Generally, employees desire opportunities to increase their value to the company. Companies that are not taking the opportunity to develop their employees will risk losing employees in the future. As a general statement, employees desire additional challenges to improve their contribution to the company, and in return hope for future higher financial reward. Grooming employees internally for greater responsibility builds on existing organization knowledge through an appreciation of company existing issues, and the recognition of improvement gains already achieved. A simple objective for this core value might be to establish a plan to ensure employee redundancy for each critical operation that currently exists.

    These examples are only ideas. A company’s workforce, if allowed to participate in the manner previously outlined, can develop core values that have greater specific meaning for its organization.

  • Creating Performance Metrics

    Once the core values are agreed upon, the organization needs to create and implement performance metrics that will reflect the team’s effort pertinent to each core value. The following examples are offered solely as ideas for use in creating potential performance metrics in an effort to stimulate further team discussion.

  • Safety – Two metrics are of use: OSHA reportable incidents and safety incidents which include minor, but non-reportable injuries. OSHA reportable incidents are required to be tracked within each company. The purpose for tracking all safety incidents is to prevent recurrence of future safety incident risks that could evolve into recordable incidents.

  • Quality – Any number of metrics could be created pertaining to concepts such as waste or yield loss, customer returns and on-time delivery performance.

  • Constraints – Recording the amount of lost time specific to equipment or process failures or lack of manpower would be beneficial.

  • Cost reduction – These items should be reported, once implemented and recorded, as to whether they represent a hard or soft measurable savings. A hard measurable savings is a savings that can easily be determined and reflected within the organization’s budget or profit and loss statement. A soft measurable savings is worthy of implementation, but the cost reduction value is not as clear, such as when turning lights off when the area is not in use.

  • Employee Development – This metric might represent the number of employees cross trained for a variety of tasks. It could include the amount of employee training hours invested, as well as the number of employee operations having redundancy. This metric lends itself to a lot of creativity for the organization.

  • Understanding is Crucial

    The key item to remember when implementing performance metrics supporting core values is to ensure the understanding of the information by all employees involved.

    Core values are normally more easily related to an assigned task when compared to a company vision or mission statement by all employees. Employees better understand or appreciate how their specific assigned task has an influence on the company overall, when addressed within specific agreed upon core values.

    Equally important is the creation of a communication forum for sharing ideas, suggestions and progress towards the organizations improvement effort within specific and meaningful core values. Creation of pertinent metrics to track or monitor progress offers encouragement to the organization and identifies areas where additional focus made be required.

    Gary Homan has more than 20 years of problem solving in general management and manufacturing operations. He has worked at Intel Corp., ITT Cannon, HEI Inc. and MIC Technology. He can be reached at