Do you understand quality systems?
Please read ‘HR quality systems in a nutshell’ before starting to devise your own quality systems. Basic level quality systems are simple and straightforward. Here we look at the steps involved in a well accepted system for improvement and apply it to an HR problem of slow disciplinary procedures. This could be applied to any HR or Learning problem as the steps are exactly the same. However, there are a few introductory steps first. You probably already have some form of quality control or assurance, if so try to develop your HR or learning quality systems around any tools, techniques, procedures or terminology with which others are already familiar.
Announcing the system
- Declare total quality to be your philosophy – this sets the aspiration and the tone. The search for improvements will be continuous and never-ending.
- Establish the golden rule – value to the organization – all quality improvements will aim to increase output (O), reduce cost C), raise revenue (R) or improve the quality (Q) of your products or services.
- Work to the PDCA system (Plan, Do, Check, Act), iteratively – you keep trying to improve
- Identify all relevant parties and communicate with them about your intentions.
An HR quality system
First decide which aspect of HR you wish to apply a quality system to. This could be anything from payroll, recruitment or grievance handling to something more sophisticated such as a reorganization – but I recommend you keep it simple until you have enough confidence. Whichever area you choose the same steps should almost always apply but we will choose the disciplinary procedure as an introductory example.
Step 1: Determine your objective.
This usually requires thinking in some detail about the purpose of the quality system and is not quite as straightforward as you might imagine. Here are some possibilities for grievance handling. Do you want the procedure to be : -
- Quick? – from registering a discipline case to resolution in the shortest time possible?
- Efficient? – lowest cost with no wasted time or effort?
- Satisfactory? – from whose perspective, the employee’s, the manager’s, the union’s, HR’s?
- Rare? – so that very few discipline problems need to reach the procedure in the future?
You can choose as many or as few purposes as you wish although a total quality philosophy will always aim for perfection ultimately.
Step 2. Measure the problem against your chosen purpose.
If we assume that you pick item 1. above – the speed of the procedure – which might reduce cost and improve satisfaction – then you need to measure the average time it takes currently to complete . This could include measuring every instance or just a sample. You can always increase the data or refine it at a later stage.
Step 3. Cause and effect analysis
This always precedes any action (Doing). What is the effect of a slow procedure? How is that measured? Let us assume that a slow procedure increases costs – by how much? The ‘effect’ to be improved is this figure.
Then you have to identify all of the possible causes of this extra cost. This will point you in the direction of what action to take. For example, getting hold of a union representative could be a major cause of delay.
Step 4. Plan to improve it
This should eal directly with the causes identified.
Step 5. Do
Implement the plan
Step 6. Check what has happened
Has the average time reduced?
Step 7. Act (or review)
What should you do now? Come up with a different plan or keep working to the same plan for further improvements?
Step 8. Feedback
Close the loop. Who needs to know the outcome and future plans? Is the problem more widespread or does it require more fundamental or radical treatment?
This is the simplest form of quality system but over time it should be built into a total, organisation-wide quality system that everyone understands and follows.