Using kaizen (continuous improvement) to improve employee well-being

Participatory intervention approaches that are embedded in existing organizational structures may improve the efficiency and effectiveness of organizational interventions, but concrete tools are lacking | Human Relations

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Image source: Sacha Chua – Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In the present article, we use a realist evaluation approach to explore the role of kaizen, a lean tool for participatory continuous improvement, in improving employee well-being in two cluster-randomized, controlled participatory intervention studies. Case 1 is from the Danish Postal Service, where kaizen boards were used to implement action plans. The results of multi-group structural equation modeling showed that kaizen served as a mechanism that increased the level of awareness of and capacity to manage psychosocial issues, which, in turn, predicted increased job satisfaction and mental health. Case 2 is from a regional hospital in Sweden that integrated occupational health processes with a pre-existing kaizen system. Multi-group structural equation modeling revealed that, in the intervention group, kaizen work predicted better integration of organizational and employee objectives after 12 months, which, in turn, predicted increased job satisfaction and decreased discomfort at 24 months. The findings suggest that participatory and structured problem-solving approaches that are familiar and visual to employees can facilitate organizational interventions.

Full reference: von Thiele Schwarz, U. et al. (2017) Using kaizen to improve employee well-being: Results from two organizational intervention studies. Human Relations. Vol. 70 (no.08)

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