Posted by: knightbird | August 24, 2010

Finding “Lean” Employees

I said I would talk about finding employees who will buy into a lean organization during my last post, so here are my thoughts.

Chugachmiut has 2 requirements of every prospective employee—that they agree to work under our “Chugachmiut Employee Values” and that they understand that they will embrace our Lean Culture. Mind you, very few employees know what a Lean Culture is. Still, we secure their commitment to working in a Lean Culture by including it as a requirement in every job description we draft. And we tell employees that they may not know what it is, but when they start work here, they agree to learn and employ our Lean Culture in their daily activities. We plant the seeds for Values and Lean in every recruitment.

When we interview potential employees, our standard questions ask what knowledge they have about Lean Management. If they have none, we try to educate them somewhat and see if they have interest. This is especially so for any of our Executive management.

What has this produced for us? Let me give a couple of recent examples.

We hired a Division Director last year who had some experience with Lean at a prior employer. Our culture was a very positive enticement and she accepted the offer. This particular division had not accepted the Lean Culture in the past, and we had 60% turnover within a short period of time. Our Lean tools allowed us to address a considerable number of issues that had started to create problems within a short period of time. As we recruited to fill the turnover positions, we found 2 additional employees who also embraced Lean. As a result, our defect rates are going down, cooperation is improved substantially, and processes that caused endless problems previously are being resolved rather quickly. One of our new employees found our culture so engaging that she volunteered to train as a Lean Champion and is already using the tools she is learning to make positive additional changes.

We also hired a new Human Resources Generalist. She was referred to us by a current employee who knew her prior employment circumstances and frustrations and thought we would be a good match for her. That employee was right. When this new employee comes on board, she will be immersed in the Lean Culture of our Human Resources Department, which is very deep and developed.

Once here, our employees face the normal challenges of the workplace, but as we continue our Lean transformation, we tend to have fewer and fewer challenges. This allows our staff to become proactive and address processes that we have never looked at before. As our Sensei Tom Jackson explained to us years ago, one of the best ways to discover problems before they can hurt you is to stress the systems a bit. One way Toyota does that is to reduce inventory going into a process and see what defects it surfaces. That’s the point we want to get to. We can only do so with employees fully living our Lean Culture, and the only way we can find such employees is to look for them specifically. We are getting better at doing this.

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