One of the most persistent problems companies experience when attempting to implement lean and/or Kaizen practices, is that people are always worried that it will lead to the elimination of jobs. Since the beginning of these methodologies, employees have feared that the increased efficiencies and other changes that take place will mean that there is less work for each person to do. The logical conclusion they feel is that there will be no need for people to fill certain positions, and they will be laid off.
Innovators and promoters of the lean and Kaizen concepts have been trying to lay this fear to rest for years, but it is very difficult. Part of the reason that it is difficult is because some companies have used lean and Kaizen implementation as an excuse for laying off employees. Another reason is that their fear flows from a logical assumption which says that if the work is done more efficiently, it will require fewer people to complete it.
Getting the Truth Out
The fact is, however, when a company implements Lean or Kaizen strategies properly, there should not be any need for eliminating positions. Companies which have let people go were not following the best practices, and may have simply been using the changes they were implementing as a scapegoat for firing certain individuals. The fact is, lean and Kaizen are meant to improve the way things are produced, and improve the processes within a facility.
In fact, in many facilities where these methodologies were implemented, the number of employees was actually able to grow in the years immediately following the implementation. This is because the company is able to become more profitable, and expand their business. Whether that means opening additional facilities, getting more customers, creating new products or all of the above, the end result is more employees and increased opportunities for those who are already there.
Getting the truth out about these types of things can be difficult. When people are worried about their job, it is hard to set their mind at ease. Any company that is looking to properly implement lean or Kaizen strategies needs to take the time to work with the employees to help them understand what the goals are, and how they will be achieved.
Focusing on Improvement
In order to help ensure employees are not going to worry about losing their jobs when these changes are implemented, the facility needs to focus on their true goal, which is improvement. Using training courses, informational handouts and other methods, it is possible to help people to see that production improvement does not result in people losing their jobs. Instead, it may lead to additional opportunities for advancements, an environment where people can contribute positive ideas, and a workplace where things run more efficiently.
While it may be difficult to get everyone on board at first, with hard work and a focus on the things which are most beneficial about the lean and Kaizen methodologies, most people will come around. For those who are still nervous, it may take some time, but over the course of weeks or months, they too will see that Lean and Kaizen are about improvement, and not cutting jobs.