Want to Attract and Retain Employees? Cultivate quality.

Want to Attract and Retain Employees? Cultivate quality.

For the past several years, attracting and retaining skilled employees has been a challenge for most businesses. That’s especially true in the manufacturing industry. Experts at Deloitte noted this as the number-one challenge for 2024 in their annual Manufacturing Industry Outlook.

Evolving job expectations, changing demographics, and the transformative impact of technology have shifted the landscape considerably. In the face of intense competition for talent, companies are finding that traditional incentives like competitive salaries and generous benefits are no longer enough.

Today’s workers want flexibility and choice. They’re also looking for meaning and connection in the workplace. They want to know that what they are doing matters, and that the people around them share a common mission.

That may sound like a tall order, – and in many respects, it is. You can’t just allocate some budget and expect that to yield a positive workplace culture. But there are affirmative steps you can take to nurture meaning and connection on the job. It starts with a commitment to quality, – not just quality products and services, but quality relationships with co-workers, customers, suppliers, and the public at large.

How QMS Contributes to a Positive Workplace Culture

Naturally, the actual quality of your products and services is a huge part of that. When top management evangelizes quality, and when they back that up with the resources to make it happen, they are sending a clear message about the company’s commitment to keeping its promises.

Quality management is ultimately about clarifying your customers’ expectations (quality standards), developing the discipline to meet them (quality processes), and fixing things when you fall short (CAPA and continuous improvement). When you’re truly committed to meeting the needs of your customers, seeking truth, and aligning your team around core principles, you’re on the right path.

QMS is where the rubber hits the road. It’s one thing to talk about quality; it’s quite another to develop and manage the disciplined systems necessary to ensure consistent results over an extended period of time. This is where things get a lot harder.

Someone needs to take ownership of document management, for example. It’s tedious work, especially if you’re using manual systems and relying on paper-based reference copies. Every new version must be carefully reviewed and approved, older copies must be marked and refiled, and master lists need to be updated. In many companies, there is a single (very valuable) employee who handles all this, taking great care to make sure everything is in order. The good news, of course, is that with the right QMS software, it doesn’t need to be this hard. More about that later…

Is Your Current QMS an Asset or a Liability?

While the person in charge of documents is taking care of business in the back office, quality management sometimes gets a bad rap on the front lines. When QMS processes are too tedious and time-consuming, there’s a risk that workers will view it as an impediment to their core job responsibilities. Anything that adds friction to routine business processes feels unproductive. If employees don’t understand the “why” of quality management, – that is, if they don’t feel like they’re making a difference, – both quality and workplace morale will suffer.

At the same time, it’s crystal clear that effective quality management programs generate net-positive ROI. So where is the disconnect?

The answer is twofold:

#1: Employees don’t understand the “why” of quality management processes.

#2: There’s too much friction arising from manual processes and disconnected systems.

Start with the “Why” of QMS

Simon Sinek is the author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. “People don’t buy what you do,” he says. “They buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”

Quality management processes exist to fulfill a promise to the customer. When employees on the production line are documenting non-conformances, completing paper-based forms, or following detailed step-by-step instructions, they are participants in that promise. It’s management’s responsibility to help them connect the dots and understand how QMS activities help the organization maintain its integrity with stakeholders.

That might sound like lofty stuff, but the connection between work and meaningful results is fundamental to employee motivation.

Remove the Friction from QMS

Manual, paper-based systems, tedious workarounds, and clunky, outdated software all result in poor productivity. That has a direct impact on your bottom line, but it also negatively impacts employee morale.

Consider, for example, what happens when a company relies on paper-based data collection processes to record nonconformances. An employee retrieves a clipboard from its usual location, fills out a form, and initials their entry. Later, another employee enters that information into a spreadsheet, where they’ll use it to run some basic reports.

Unfortunately, paper forms are often misplaced, and handwriting can sometimes be difficult to decipher. Even the data entry process itself is prone to errors and inconsistencies. You eventually get a report, but it’s fraught with inaccuracies, and the information is already a week old. It’s a lot of work for employees, and the benefits don’t always seem clear.

Now consider a different approach. Every employee carries a mobile device that can capture data on the shop floor, along with photographs, videos, or voice memos. The QMS system records every nonconformance in real time, and even displays a heads-up quality dashboard for line managers.

Imagine that an upstream problem on the production line has led to a small but meaningful spike in nonconformances. With real-time feedback, workers can recognize the problem quickly and address it right away.

In scenario #1, workers spent a lot of time on manual processes but didn’t see a lot of value in their efforts. In scenario #2, there’s less effort, less friction, and a direct, meaningful impact on quality.

The Benefits on a Team from a QMS

QMS: “It’s a great place to work.”

So after all this, how does QMS impact hiring and retention? Quality products and services directly impact an organization’s reputation. So, too, does workplace morale.

Consider the fact that 76% of workers are less likely to work for a company with a poor reputation. Nobody wants to be on a losing team; and if your company’s products and services are not up to par, you’re already operating at a talent deficit.

A positive culture of quality, in contrast, is an enormous asset. Every year, Fortune Magazine publishes a list of the top 100 companies to work for. According to the team that conducts that survey, these best companies “experience half the turnover as their peers and have employees who are six times more likely to help recruit talent.”

The fundamental “why” of quality management is about delivering on your promise to the customer. The right QMS software helps you lower the cost of your quality management processes while dramatically increasing their value. By combining that with proactive efforts aimed at cultivating a culture of quality, your company just might earn a slot on next year’s “best places to work” list.