This blog was guest written by Darla Gibson, Executive Admin at Cambridge Engineering.

We all know what employee engagement means, getting our employees to be present at work. Getting them to make things better, paying attention to quality and making sure our customers are taken care of. But how do we get it?

Over the 20+ years that I have been at Cambridge, I have seen so many iterations of getting the employees heard. From the suggestion box, to a database of issues that they encounter and want solutions for (we called it Employee Action Request or EAR), to rearranging where the departments are physically located to make sure the resources are near to where the problems occur. But it never seemed to work. But, why? 

It wasn’t that we didn’t hear them. It wasn’t that we didn’t believe them. It was a matter of having enough time and figuring out what the priorities were. Once the employee handed the problem to leadership, we had to put it in a bigger engine. Now, we had to prioritize it with the other projects from other areas. It became a bunch of “red tape.” So, what changed that for Cambridge?

I believe that the change came when we told the employees to fix it. That may sound harsh but basically, we said, if it bugs you, fix it. Don’t bring it to us, use the resources within your circle of influence and figure out how you can make it better. Most of the little issues, suddenly get fixed. If the employee was not changing the way our product looks or feels to the customer, we allowed them to find solutions. 

These solutions took a lot of their headaches away. Many times, they had the relationships within their departments and amongst other departments to fix the problems that plagued them day in and day out. They became more engaged because they felt they had a voice in finding the solutions to their own issues. No longer did they have to wait for the item to become top priority, no longer did they wait for a magical solution, they just took care of the issue.

The truly inspiring part of this is that we asked them to record it. We asked for a video that gave the problem and showed us their solution. This gave them a voice.  Now, they had the permission to fix what bugged them, and to show the entire organization their creative process. 

Did this make everything better? Of course not. There were larger problems that needed to be addressed within the bigger engine. However, what I believe this did was give employees a place to be creative and ask them for their ideas to fix problems. 

We have many people come through Cambridge to visit to see what we do. They have heard so many things about our Morning Meeting and our employee engagement.  When they are here, they see and feel this engagement.  This sense that the employee’s voice matters and therefore, the employees are willing to step up and tell us when they have an idea, rather than stay in the background. Everyone’s question is “how did you make it happen?”

It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t overnight. We have been on this journey for several years and the iterations keep happening. We have added so many places where the employee can come with ideas and be creative. What all the systems do is recognize that the employee voice needs to be heard, and the employee needs to have a space to be creative.

So, how can you make this happen in your organization?

  1. Create a pathway that works in your organization.  One that is simple and easy for the employee to access. 
  2. Allow the employee to tell their story.  Video is as easy way to share.  Find a venue – email, company meeting, some way for the stories to get published.  Allowing the employee to show off their creativity. 
  3. Celebrate.  Make sure the employee knows that you appreciate their efforts!

Find that space in your organization and let your employees become engaged and thrive!

A quick rhythm that sets the mood for the day. 

Corporate leaders know that creating daily rhythms can make the difference between a “great idea” and a lasting impact on you and your company. These rhythms can range from a team touchpoint meeting on goals to spending 20 minutes reading up on industry trends and news.   
 

A specific rhythm that makes so much sense logically, but can be hard to exercise is giving daily gratitude. It’s not lost on us that sharing gratitude and showing vulnerability in that manner can seem out of place at work, and uncomfortable for some.
 

We feel that this daily rhythm is incredibly important, so much so that we started doing it “first thing” in our morning meeting, before we go over daily sales and metrics. Our practice includes passing the microphone for people to volunteer to thank someone for their help or share a personal moment of gratitude.
 

One may ask “Couldn’t the 5 minutes a day (30+ minutes a week!) be better used?” We are a manufacturing facility that measures the Takt Time it takes to produce one our our HVAC units. Yes, it could be used elsewhere, but in our opinion - not in a better manner.


According to a Gallup poll, only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days. Even more, another Gallup Poll shows that 65% of employees haven’t received any form of recognition for good work in the last year! We can all agree, that going an entire year without some feeling of appreciation in your daily work has major impacts.

 

The benefits of daily gratitude that we see:
 

Positivity begets Positivity.

Starting the day with insights to how one person helped another just makes you feel good. It’s not a rat race, we’re all in this together and are better because of one another. And that feeling of positivity is a great way to start the day off on the right foot.
 

You learn a LOT about who your coworkers are outside of work.

People are “whole beings” – they don’t leave their personal matters at the door when they clock into work. During our ‘Grateful Appreciations’ – we may learn that they are celebrating a child’s birthday, or saved up enough to put a down payment on a house – all things to celebrate and understand them as a mother, father, sister, brother, daughter or son.
 

People feel appreciated for their work, and that work becomes a passion.

Though bring kind and bettering a life is reason enough, a feeling of appreciation has an enormous impact on retention, referrals, and employee engagement. We also believe that the pride in one's work equates to producing higher quality products on the plant floor and going the extra mile to help a customer out in a service call - actions that you can't exactly interview for but is reason for celebration and recognition when you see it in your employees.


It's simple, right? Maybe not, but I hope that by now you at at least see the importance. Start with a personal goal of seeking out three people to express your thanks. I imagine, you'll find that you exceed this goal on the first day once you're consciously doing it. See how it can really take impact on your organization once you introduce it as a company goal - to give gratitude on a daily basis. 

This blog was guest written by Meg Brown, Director of Human Resources at Cambridge Engineering.

At Cambridge we behave with unconditional love and high expectations while demonstrating care, courage, integrity and respect.  It isn’t always easy and sometimes can seem downright confusing!  As our CEO, John Kramer Jr., often reminds us – it is a journey and not a destination.  In my role as Human Resources Director I was curious what my department could do to help clarify what unconditional love and high expectations really means. 

Enter the Dale Carnegie course. 

I was invited to take the public Dale Carnegie Course last winter.  It wasn’t long before I began to see deep personal transformation - there’s magic in the simplicity of the Carnegie principles! We picked a principle or two to work on each week, giving it a try and reporting back on our progress.  That level of accountability and experimentation lead to bursts of growth for me and my classmates.   The simple and clear Carnegie principles and system of practice and accountability were exactly what we had been seeking to help us explain unconditional love and high expectations.   It didn’t take me long to find a way to bring it to my Cambridge teammates. 

We engaged Elizabeth Haberberger from Dale Carnegie St. Louis to help us create a custom course for 28 of our managers and team members.  The course took place over 2 months ending with a phenomenal graduation experience that I will remember for the rest of my career. 

In this course I witnessed my fellow Cambridge family members take risks, push past their fears and try something new.  And you know what – they knocked it out of the park every time!  It was amazing to hear them articulate their visions for their life – their WHOLE life – not just their work life.  The level of courage and openness in the class was unlike any training course I’ve ever experienced.

I’d encourage you to learn the Carnegie principles so that you can unlock your relationships and experience explosive personal growth.

We'd also like to extend our deepest thanks to the Dean Team of Ballwin for allowing us to use their amazing conference room for our off-site training!

The first stop on the International Lean tour leading up to the Global Lean Leadership Summit was at Seating Matters in Northern Ireland. Just an hour and a half drive from Belfast in Limavardy, this company is transforming the future of healthcare seating for elderly and disabled persons.

We could go on and on describing what we saw – from their Lean improvements to their company culture – but we figured we would show you instead!

Everyone is Measuring to Target

To make sure that the daily throughput is met – Seating Matters has implemented a series of checkpoints and signage to keep a live tabulation of progress to goal.

They Made the Morning Meeting their Own

One of the best approaches to Lean is making it your own – building on what you’ve seen work at other companies and adjusting it to meet your goals and to inspire your team members. Seating Matters does an incredible job of being transparent in their progress and giving everyone an opportunity to discuss any struggles or successes they are encountering.

Their Lean Improvements are Everywhere!

Why didn’t we think of these?

The Video Cameras turned on us!

We had such high praise to give to the Seating Matters team – make sure to check out the observations video that they made while we were there!