Workplace Innovation Engagement Programme (WIEP)
A Scottish Enterprise initiative delivered by Workplace Innovation Limited
As part of its commitment to enhancing economic competitiveness and growth, Scottish Enterprise, the country’s main economic development agency, appointed Workplace Innovation Limited to deliver an innovative but practical Workplace Innovation Engagement Programme (WIEP) to participating businesses.
The programme’s objective was to help businesses across a wide spectrum of sectors identify and critically assess existing workplace practices through a specialist diagnostic tool, and to support them in uncovering new ways of working to make the best use of talent across the entire workforce. It was important to deliver an approach that was relevant and practical for all types of organisation, all types of employer and all types of employee.
The Diagnostic Tool
The programme commenced with each of the 10 participating businesses using the on-line Workplace Diagnostic to assess a broad spectrum of workplace practices against evidence-based criteria. The Fifth Element, a concept developed by Workplace Innovation Limited for the European Commission, explains the benefits of workplace innovation to companies and provides practical guidance on making change happen. Employees and managers were asked to identify their experiences of four types of workplace practice:
- Jobs and Teams
- Structures, Management and Procedures
- Employee-Driven Improvement and Innovation
- Co-Created Leadership and Employee Voice.
Each participating business then received a detailed feedback report, and each was supported to develop an Action Plan based on the Diagnostic survey findings. Typical Plans included:
- flattening the existing hierarchy and pushing decision making to the lowest appropriate level
- defining and living organisational values and behaviours
- implementing self-directed team working
- creating empowered, cross-functional teams based on workflow rather than silos
- establishing innovation forums and continuous improvement groups
- rethinking traditional leadership and management roles, responsibilities and accountabilities
- enhancing skills development and utilisation, training and coaching plans.
Throughout the programme, participants received continuous support from the Workplace Innovation team and Scottish Enterprise Specialists. Interactive workshops, facilitation, coaching and site visits helped with problem-solving and turning new ideas into practical action.
The development and implementation of practical Action Plans was also facilitated through regular peer review by ‘critical friends’ in Action Learning Sets, enabling participants to discuss their organisation’s challenges and how they were planning to meet them.
Participating companies also gained automatic membership of Fresh Thinking Labs, the international platform for knowledge-sharing between companies, offering an abundance of online resources and opportunities for in person contact with good practice companies across the UK and beyond.
It was clear that everyone benefited from learning about others’ ideas and experiences, from sharing the business benefits of good workplace practices and hearing about ‘what works and what doesn’t’.
WIEP participants can also opt to gain a recognised qualification, accredited by the Institute for Leadership and Management, based on their action plans.
As a market-leading steel plate mill, Liberty Steel Dalzell has an established history of engineering outstanding heavy steel plate. Through their action plan, Willie and Peter recognised the need for openness, transparency, team working, visible and supportive leadership, and, above all, engaging the workforce. They designed an ambitious framework of regular meetings and forums involving all levels of the workforce.
Problems with the cutting machine brought the benefits of workplace innovation into focus. Everyone was looking to senior management to find a solution but none was forthcoming until a problem-solving forum was set up, bringing together frontline employees and younger engineers. Re-examining the evidence using problem solving tools and whiteboards, they identified the issue and corrected the machinery, leading to the most efficient 24 hours from the machine and the highest shift production level ever. View the film here.
“What makes the Workplace Innovation Programme different from others, it’s about resilience, keeping going, don’t give up at the first hurdle. And that’s why we have been at every session and enjoyed every session. We’ve taken the learning and ideas and brought them back and implemented them, and they work. Trust us, if they can work in our environment they can work in any environment” (Willie McWhinnie, Chief Engineer, Liberty Steel).
DS Smith is a leading packaging company based in Lockerbie. Operations Manager David Murdoch asked the Workplace Innovation team to help involve his staff in innovative ways to improve the business. A Mini-FabLab session, facilitated by Rosemary and Peter, brought together frontline staff representing each area of production. The group modelled and then re-modelled the factory, sharing experiences and creating solutions … using boxes and paper! They addressed several production issues including improvements in teamwork and opportunities for quality improvement. Some ideas were quick wins and some involve quite radical changes.
They presented the redesigned model to David who was very receptive to their ideas. He is supporting the group to meet every month to develop further improvements. David also welcomed their idea that teams of operators should be able to pause production, identifying and resolving problems together at the time they are flagged, rather than at the end of the line. He agreed that this will reduce waste and improve quality control. See more.
“We realised we needed to give people time and space away from their machines to offer their true potential, which could make us a more effective and profitable business. The solutions are far superior to any that I could have come up with on my own because we are harnessing the experience from the business. So the time taken for the session was well and truly paid back to the company, not only in the bottom line, but in terms of team commitment” (David Murdoch Operations Manager, DS Smith).
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