Kaizen Tip: Give Thanks

When talking about engaging every employee in continuous improvement (or “Kaizen“), the question of rewards or incentives often comes up. For example, if an employee has an idea that saves $30,000 a year when implemented, isn’t it fair to share some of the savings with the employee? Should we give a reward for every implemented idea, regardless of it’s value?

Many talk about “rewards and recognition” — putting most of the emphasis on the “rewards” side of the equation. Rewards and incentives sometimes lead to more participation, but often get dysfunctional.

The part that’s too often overlooked is the “recognition” side. Employees participate in Kaizen because they’re self motivated to make things better for their patients or to make their own work less frustrating. Sure, cost savings might follow, but that’s not always the point.

In this American week of Thanksgiving, it’s important to remember the power of giving thanks to employees who participate in our Kaizen process.

You can thank them individually, with a handshake and a smile.

You can thank them in front of their colleagues, with sincere praise for their participation and efforts.

An executive can thank them in front of a larger health system gathering (or in a hospital newsletter).

There are many ways we can give thanks.

We’re giving thanks for employees being willing to speak up and we should also give thanks to the leaders who helped create the culture of continuous improvement that made it easier for people to speak up and give action.

Employees don’t need big incentives or rewards when their leaders and colleagues thank them and give recognition.

See this video that shows the power of intrinsic motivation and joy in improvement:

What are you doing to give thanks to people for their role in continuous improvement?