What is quality awareness and how do you promote QM awareness among employees?
The following question can currently be read in a well-known quality forum: “Can someone give me a tip on how I can promote and internalize quality awareness in my employees?” The number of answers to this question was manageable. It was exactly one QM colleague who made a statement. His answer was analogously:
Quality awareness can neither be prescribed nor prescribed, but must thrive among employees.
The employees’ awareness of the issue of quality is therefore a “delicate plant” that needs to be cherished and looked after. Read below what this means in practice and how you can create quality-enhancing awareness in the minds of your employees. On this page you will receive incentives to implement quality-promoting awareness in the sense of DIN EN ISO 9001 in a more sustainable manner.
What characterizes a pronounced quality awareness according to ISO 9001?
A discouragement right at the beginning: QM awareness is a soft factor and, in contrast to a hard factor, extremely difficult to put into numbers. Often it is not possible to analyze and evaluate the QM awareness by means of a measurement. Measurement criteria for products or results of a service are much easier to anchor in a specification. The degree of compliance with requirements ultimately describes the quality. That was communicated by Mr. Philip B. Crosby in one of the four cornerstones of quality. From this thought pattern, encouraging things can be derived for your own company. It is possible to set up criteria that suggest an existing quality awareness.
What are the criteria for an existing quality awareness?
In the following section we present some criteria that characterize QM awareness.
See the product, the service, like your own.
Do employees treat the company’s products or inventory as carefully as they do with your property? Do employees in service organizations treat customers or customer property as they would expect them to?
Pay attention to those aspects that are important to the customer.
Do the employees know and understand the customers and their requirements and wishes?
Develop an understanding of defects from the customer’s point of view.
Can the employees understand the consequences of possible mistakes for the customer?
Identification of the real client.
To what extent is it clear to the employees that they are primarily working for the customer and secondarily for the boss?
Focus on the benefits of good quality.
Do the employees know the benefits of improved performance (for you and for the company)?
Take on more personal responsibility.
Can the employees assign their own contribution to the overall result?
If a company can answer these questions with “Yes”, there is a high probability that the employees have a strong QM awareness according to ISO 9001. The crucial question now is how can we further promote this attitude among employees? Some aspects of the “fertilizer formula” are listed below, which could allow the plant quality consciousness to flourish on the right nutrient medium.
Make the customer present with the employees
In most companies, the customer is an abstract term. The refugee crisis clearly shows that we are less affected by the good or bad of people who are far away. Now that these people come to us, things are significantly different. For example, set up a customer advisory board in your company that meets regularly with your employees. This certainly creates clarity for the employees as to who the real client is and what requirements they have. In many organizations, only sales or quality assurance deal with complaints.
Do you know the saying of the “prophet in your own country”? Against this background, their advice is often not taken as seriously as it should be. The situation is different when employees drive to the customer with complaints. There they can see “live” how problematic the error is for the customer’s processes. The employee is now known there and the elimination of the problems is now “a matter of honor” for him. You specifically promote quality awareness through such measures.
Promote awareness of quality awareness
Many companies provide extensive internal information about their quality standards. However, information is often a “one-way street”. There is no express acceptance. Failure to understand is also accepted. Sometimes reactions are even undesirable! Create a perspective of (positive) concern here throughout. Make it clear to all employees how they are affected by quality management and how they are involved in it. Employees need to know all quality factors in order to act accordingly. They promote quality awareness, for example, with the following options:
- Communication of the quality level through regular feedback
- Provide knowledge about the meaning and whereabouts of the products or services generated by the person
Include employees in quality awareness according to ISO 9001
Contributing to the improvement of processes ensures clarity about your own work and that of your colleagues. The interactions between the departments and groups active in the processes are also made clear. The ability of employees to recognize problems and to solve them in a more targeted manner increases and employees become more alert, more attentive and more committed to their work and their work environment. You will recognize and understand the interrelationships within the company better and the previously existing isolated consideration of problems is expanding. You can promote QM awareness with the following tools:
- Quality circles and quality control loops
- CIP meetings
- Ideas program
- Job enrichment and enlargement
- Semi-autonomous working groups
Increase in quality awareness according to ISO 9001 through an open error culture
If one mistake is punished, the next mistake was made immediately. Regardless of whether through formal sanctions or through “social penalties”, such as a reprimand. The mistake itself is so uncomfortable that no more salt has to be sprinkled into the wound. The punishment of mistakes creates fear of further mistakes. This distracts attention from what it is actually about. The mutual achievement of success through the best possible quality. In the worst case, a lack of error culture among employees promotes a philosophy of hiding errors (the corpses then go to the cellar as quickly as possible).
Increase of the QM awareness by clarifying the personal advantages
If people recognize a personal advantage or other purpose in a behavior, then there is no need for external motivation. The sense alone is then already reason enough to adopt behavior patterns. The following strategies support implementation according to ISO 9001 :
- Create the greatest possible agreement (ie overlap) between the operational goals and the personal goals of the employee.
- Quality problems usually mean trouble. Make it clear that removing quality problems means less hassle for everyone.