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Let’s Talk About a Different Kind of Sustainability in Manufacturing: Operational Performance

Let’s Talk About a Different Kind of Sustainability in Manufacturing: Operational Performance

Sustainability and scalability of operational performance in manufacturing requires a company culture that inspires and motivates peak operational performance across the entire organization.

With global initiatives like ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) standards and compliance impacting manufacturing in every sector, sustainability, as in operating in a manner that is ‘sustainable’ for the well-being of people and the environment, is clearly in the spotlight. 

As manufacturing people, processes, productivity, and performance consultants, we’ve seen our share of ESG-based policies stretching through our clients’ operations and supply chains. And whether you agree with ESG as it’s being implemented, it is certainly shining a light on manufacturing operations and practices globally. 

We’ve found that operational performance sustainability and scalability can be the fuel that drives more altruistic business objectives like ESG. But, unfortunately, higher ideals can wither on the vine of good intentions without business growth. 

Recently we took up the subject of creating value as the ultimate objective of any business: value for customers, your employees, the greater community, and the environment. So let’s focus on your workforce and creating value for them as a critical component of short-term performance wins, long-term growth, and bottom-line financial health. 

In our experience, ‘your people are your most valuable asset’ cannot be overstated in business. The creativity and innovation present in your workforce can be a fountain of opportunity or your most untapped potential. So how can you build a company culture that continually inspires and motivates top-level performance? Here are our top 3 recommendations.

1. Invest in Your People, Especially Those Out on the Front Line Driving Daily Performance

Investing in training and developing your people, especially your frontline leaders, will almost always be our first recommendation. Imagine you’re a frontline manager in a manufacturing facility, a shift supervisor, or a plant manager, for example. You’ve been with the company for nearly a decade and worked your way up by showing up and doing a great job every day. The company’s value statement on the website reads in part, ‘we’re committed to our people.’

Over the years, you’ve witnessed the company invest in hard assets, like equipment and additional facilities. At the same time, you’ve seen technology solutions implemented, failed, re-implemented, and so on. The expenditures were staggering.

As the years passed, however, the company spent little on its people: meaningful, hands-on, shoulder-to-shoulder investment in training people. So, you’re surrounded by this massive investment in equipment, facilities, and technology, but nothing was implemented to improve your skills or create opportunities to advance. The result? The supposed commitment to people rings hollow. Why stay? You plan to move on, and the company loses an experienced, committed, valuable asset.

Training your people demonstrates your commitment to your people. In addition, communicating a clear and achievable career trajectory helps employees see themselves in the company’s future. 

2. Authenticity = Reality: If Your Culture is Merely Words, It Isn’t Real and Can Pull Down Performance

If there was one word whizzing around corporate America’s boardrooms today, creating a buzz, it is authenticity. And whether you believe your company is creating an authentic workplace culture and experience for your customers or that authenticity is a scam, as this recent Bloomberg article posits, your customers and workers know the truth. 

When we talk about authenticity in workplace culture, we mean that your stated values apply across the board and have investment and commitment behind them. So if you say, for example, you’re a customer-centric organization, yet don’t provide the training necessary for your customer service representatives to handle issues smoothly, then your ‘customer-centric’ stance is not genuine.

I’m reminded of a global food producer who recently changed the recipes of several beloved consumer food products. The products were noticeably different, whether due to supply chain issues or for whatever reason. And unfortunately, the consumer reaction was highly adverse and made its way onto product reviews, social media, and deep discussion forums like Reddit.

Unfortunately, responses from company representatives revealed they were unprepared for the backlash and lacked the training to deal with the issue publicly.

Yet, the company website states an unequivocal commitment to consumers, workers, and stakeholders. Had the company demonstrated its stated values ‘authentically’ by informing consumers in advance of the product changes and training its workforce to communicate effectively, the outcome might have been different and a potential PR and share price issue averted.   

Poor operational performance is the byproduct of an inauthentic (or nonexistent) workplace culture. Lack of authenticity typically means that executive and senior management requires the people they manage to behave differently than they do themselves. As a result, senior leaders talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.

A company culture that ignites performance inspires growth and builds a business with the agility and fortitude to meet any market challenges head-on must start at the top and be authentic throughout the organization. This more genuine culture is a magnet for top performers. 

3. Connect Operational Performance Directly and Purposefully to Company Culture

Nothing will fundamentally transform your business and operational performance like unpacking your stated company values and reassembling them with the actions and behaviors that embody those values. It’s not about changing your values. It’s about infusing them with clear and trainable actions. 

As senior leadership, keep asking yourselves, “what do we mean by that,” or, “how does that value manifest itself?” 

For example, Company A states they are committed to work/life balance for their people. Yet, when you get out onto the shop floor, you find no tangible ways this is achievable for the workforce. Process management systems are antiquated or not functioning. Or perhaps, new approaches are implemented that waste more time than they save. 

As a result, your people waste time and energy operating in a suboptimal or inefficient manner leading to overtime to meet production demand. As a company leader, you’ve created a no-win situation for your employees and undermined your stated values.

If you’re committed to work/life balance, then the job of each of your people must be achievable at the highest level of performance within their workday. Nothing will burn out people, including your brightest performers, like being on a hamster wheel of perpetual underperformance outside their control.

The Conclusion? These Are All Within Your Power to Change

To grow an organization with the highest sustainable and scalable performance level, you must get ‘real’ with where you’re at on the journey. 

Invest in your people. Make that commitment so clear that it’s well-known in your industry. You’ll attract and keep the brightest talent. And you’ll build the future leaders and innovators in your business. 

Create an authentic company culture. Nothing will undermine performance like fake company culture, with platitudes handed down from on high and plastered on posters. Company cultures are now out there for everyone to see and read about, more than ever before. It’s time to button yours up and make it reflect who you say you are.

Once you have intensified your commitment to a genuine culture, determine the actions and behaviors that align with it and train on them. And that includes everyone, from the top floor to the shop floor, as we like to say.

Getting your entire organization pulling in the same direction, working happily and harmoniously, can drive growth, innovation, and agility. A recent study shows that happy people are up to 13% more productive at work. 

Focus on investing in your people, creating a truly authentic company culture, and connecting the values that make up that culture with the actions that drive high-level performance. This is a recipe for building long-term value, sustainable and scalable growth, a more significant competitive advantage, and a healthier bottom line.

The POWERS Difference

At POWERS, we focus on Frontline Leadership Training and Development and implementing our proven Culture Performance Management™ methodology, which connects the dots between optimized company culture and desired operational performance outcomes.

Our team has helped executive leadership across many industries operationalize their culture for rapid and sustained performance improvement, increased competitive advantage, greater value, and a stronger bottom line.

To put our experienced team and proven track record to work for you, schedule an initial discovery and analysis by calling +1 678-971-4711, or emailing us at info@thepowerscompany.com.

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About the Author

Sean Hart

CEO, Managing Partner

Sean Hart is an industrial engineer with a background in manufacturing supervision and project management. Sean’s background is in improving overall plant efficiencies and implementing Lean techniques to improve processes.