Written by Nathanial Marshall, Practitioner at LI Europe.

One of the most common questions we come across is “How do we engage our workforce”? 

Many companies try to measure how engaged people are but often overcomplicate the surveys.

They create a vast array of questions among many categories which results in a large amount of convoluted feedback. How easy is it to then analyse this feedback? How often does that feedback actually get translated into activity that makes a demonstrable difference to engagement? Or do the actions end up as the most generic of activities that will do almost nothing to meet a specific individual’s needs?

One of the simplest yet most effective surveys I came across was reading the book “First, Break all the Rules” by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman.

Early in the book, they detail a simple survey which later became known as the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey. They surveyed 105,000 people amongst 2500 business units within 24 companies.

The following 12 questions were asked and scored 1 to 5 on “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree” respectively.

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work? 
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last 7 days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?  
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development? 
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work? 
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last 6 months, has someone talked to me about my progress? 
  12. This last year, have I had the opportunity at work to learn and grow? 

Gallup completed a significant analysis of their findings and found two key results.

The first key finding probably wasn’t surprising, but was nonetheless, important.  Employees who responded more positively to the questions also worked in business units with higher levels of productivity, profit, retention and customer service. In essence, more engaged employees mean better business performance.

Further analysis also showed that employees rated the questions differently depending on their department rather than the overall company.  The opinions to the 12 questions depended more on the employee’s immediate manager than the overall policies and procedures of the company.

It goes to show how every single line manager and their ability to engage with their team is the key driver of engagement within a business and thus directly linked to performance.

How engaged are your employees? Could you be doing more to support them in the workplace? Do you have effective systems in place for managing performance and developing your team?

LI Europe has created The Ambassador’s Academy, (TAA). A monthly forum for ambitious manufacturing operations professionals concerned with, amongst other issues, engaging their workforce.  The peer-to-peer format allows like-minded individuals to discuss best practice and how to deliver improvements within their workplace.

TAA membership isn’t open to everyone.  Members must be ambitious and have something valuable to add to the group. To find out more about TAA member visit the LI Europe web page at www.laurasinternational.com/news/ambassadors-academy-taa/

Written by Adrian Oliver, Practitioner at LI Europe


Regarding productivity levels, the UK currently lags behind other European nations by a significant amount. According to Trading Economics website, the UK has a GDP per Capita of US$ 42,514 and sits 15th in Europe behind countries such as Germany (US$ 46,747), Netherlands (US$ 53,597), Denmark (US$ 61,582) and Norway (US$ 91,218)1.

Considering the challenges we already face, the last thing the UK manufacturing industry needs is more uncertainty in the coming years. This view is common throughout the food and drinks industry, and I hope it is also a view held by politicians trying to negotiate the Brexit deal with the EU.

Watching the news recently, I see that we are discussing extending the transition period from two to three years. No, wait; hang on a minute, Downing Street is now rowing back from that position to say it might be a “few additional months”.  Does anybody truly know how long the process will take?

Since the referendum in 2016, the fear of the unknown has had a major impact on the amount of investment that businesses have been willing to make. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that investment levels are significantly lower than Bank of England expectations for the two-year period (a 2% increase versus an expected 13% rise). Indeed, investment has fallen over the last 12 months.

If our investment decisions are being delayed, how do we expect to compete with the rest of Europe and wider afield?

Fortunately, there is another way. A lot of the business owners we speak to have well-run, successful businesses. However, the thing that makes the top performers stand out is the balanced approach they have between productivity being driven through investment in equipment and investment in people.

Ask yourself this question; when you sit down at your next business planning meeting to agree on how to deliver a 10% increase in output without increasing wages, does your list contain mostly capital expenditure? If it does, are you missing an opportunity?

The Ambassadors Academy meets monthly for ambitious manufacturing professionals concerned with driving productivity, in all its form.  If this article interested you and you’d like to find out more about the Academy follow this link to the Ambassadors webpage.

1. Data is based on 2017 figures and can be found at www.tradingeconomics.com

Written by Jeremy Praud, Head of UK & Europe at LI Europe.

I’ve been putting it off, but the other day I finally decided to properly read “Management 2020” cover to cover instead of just flicking through the key paragraphs. It makes some great points – and there is good insight to be found in those 57 pages – but I was struggling to get past page 15, something didn’t feel right. The caption says “The UK… suffers from a significant productivity gap compared with the US, Japan and Germany”. Nothing to argue with there – we all know that right? And Figure 1 helpfully shows the UK highlighted in red, a third of the way down in 6th place. At the top, the US, France and Germany. Hang on – France? Really? Where’s Japan – erm, I just found it way down in 12th place.

The graph must be wrong – I’ll check the OECD website. The report was published in 2014 (although you can still download it today), and I can only find the most recent data – but it paints the same picture. So we’re more productive than Japan! Who would have thought it? Certainly not the author, or proof readers, or anyone else in the past 4 years who skimmed past it. Why is that? This is a government report after all – I’ve got to believe some pretty skilled people reviewed this report – why is it that that no one picked up on this error?

That got me thinking. When something is part of the established narrative, we tend not to question it. We just nod, and carry on.  “Behind the US, Japan, and Germany” – that’s the narrative, and since it is how we define ourselves, there is little incentive to really change. “Better than Japan, but a long way behind France” – that’s a very different truth. One much harder for a Brit to take, and surely a much better incentive to show we really can improve productivity if we don’t shackle our minds?

Link to Management 2020 report

The Ambassadors Academy meets monthly for ambitious manufacturing professionals concerned with driving productivity, in all its form.  If this article interested you and you’d like to find out more about the Academy follow this link to the Ambassadors webpage.

Written by Jason Gledhill, Engagement Leader at LI Europe.

A few weeks ago, my beloved wife announced that she desperately needed a new bathroom. This was an emergency, she informed me. She couldn’t possibly live in our home, the home where we have created such fond memories, unless she had a new bathroom suite, floor-to-ceiling tiles, a heated towel rail, power shower and whirlpool bath.

I respectfully pointed out that, after renovating two previous houses, I formally retired from major DIY projects around six years ago and the bathroom we had was good enough. I also mentioned that I would struggle to find time for a major project. After all, I was busy at work, I played a little golf, we had three children to ferry around to numerous clubs, I played a little more golf, I wanted to spend quality time with my wife, and did I mention golf?

I won’t repeat the response I got, but you don’t need a great imagination to get a feel for the one-sided conversation that followed. After a morale-raising speech, I was forcibly frog-marched to the bathroom.

Once the vision of bath time bliss had been painted, and I had fully bought into that vision, I mentioned that I didn’t really have the knowledge or the correct tools to complete the project “on time, in full and within budget”.  I was kindly reminded that my wife wasn’t a member of the workforce and didn’t take kindly to “management speak”.  In the end, we agreed that we would get someone in to perform this life-saving household surgery.

Sure enough, a few weeks later a team of experts arrived at my house. Within an hour the van was unloaded, and cups of tea consumed. After some banging and colourful language, my bathroom was removed and everything was stripped back to the bare walls. More tea was then required, along with numerous chocolate digestives. Within a week the bathroom was complete; shiny chrome, sparkling tiles, a shower so powerful I’m sure it was part of a fire engine at one time.

Once again, all is blissful in our house.

So, what is the point of my bathroom-related ramblings and what has it got to do with making significant and sustainable manufacturing improvements?  

As the team of bathroom experts unloaded their equipment, it quickly became apparent that they had a multitude of tools. I had no idea what some of them were or how you would use them correctly. This is often the case with the tools and techniques in Six Sigma, Lean, TPM etc. Anyone starting an improvement project can get lost in the myriad of tools, not to mention the strange names they have and how to correctly apply them. It’s about understanding the tools available and how to use them effectively.

For this reason, LI Europe has created The Ambassador’s Academy, (TAA). It’s a monthly forum for CI professionals to meet and discuss how to correctly use and apply the plethora of tools available. The peer-to-peer format allows like-minded individuals to discuss best practice and how to deliver improvements within their workplace.

If you want to be a DIY CI manager, that’s great. If you want to become a CI professional, with a depth of knowledge, breadth of experience and an extended network of like-minded professionals, then come along to our next TAA session and see what it’s all about.

TAA membership isn’t open to everyone.  Members must be ambitious and have something valuable to add to the group. To find out more about TAA member visit the LI Europe web page at https://li-europe.com/news/ambassadors-academy-taa

Written by Adrian Oliver, Practitioner at LI Europe


“Sorry I’ll be late home again tonight, everything will be back to normal after the board meeting…I promise”


I put down the phone and rub my sore eyes. That was my wife Jane asking if I was going to be home in time to see the kids before they go to bed. I’m not in her good books – that’s the third night in a row I am working late to get things sorted for the half-year review.

Somehow I’ve got to come up with a plan that will deliver a £1 million savings from our production costs. My management team has been working on it for the last six months but we just can’t get seem to make the improvements we need…

All right, that sounds a bit cliched and corny, the sentiment, described however, is often relayed to us by new clients, “The management team is putting all the hours and pulling every rabbit out of the hat, but seem unable to make the necessary breakthrough in performance.”

Typically, six months after starting the improvement programme there is a blinding realisation from the management team that the answers were available to them all the time. They just hadn’t known where to find them.

Many businesses will tell you that their greatest asset is their people. But how many managers truly live and breathe that idea? How many managers take the time to stop and listen to what their people are telling them, let alone allowing them to get involved and take ownership for driving improvement and delivering results?

“True competitive advantage occurs when a business is able to improve more quickly than the competition.”

True competitive advantage occurs when a business is able to improve more quickly than the competition. To allow for this to happen, we need people who know what is important, understand how the business is performing and are able to share their ideas with the management team in a clear and concise way that helps the manager make the best decision.

If people are truly the greatest asset then surely the best leaders will prioritise their day to spend quality time with their people. This starts with being present at their place of work. Taking the time to walk the area and discuss performance with individuals. Listening to issues and concerns then coaching and supporting to implement effective solutions.

In a presentation given by a senior manager from Toyota recently he quite rightly observed that the best employees always had problems. What he meant by that was that if someone had a problem it indicated that they were thinking about the business and an opportunity to improve existed. It is the leader’s responsibility to remove any blockers from stopping the improvement from happening.

As your people become used to you listening to them and showing an interest in making their jobs more interesting and effective, they will start to look forward to your regular walkabouts. By establishing a fixed route and time they will know when and where they can speak with you.

Combine this with a group of people with a common understanding and language for solving problems then the level of trust and mutual understanding between employee and leader increases massively. It is truly amazing to watch, during the course of an improvement workshop, the confidence and engagement level build in previously disenfranchised people. I have witnessed people in tears of joy as they overcome years of frustration of managers having not listening to them.

If you find yourself empathising with the red-eyed manager missing his kids bed time, or recognise that being present with your people gets squeezed in at the end of the day only if you have cleared your inbox then visit www.laurasinternational.com and explore whether or not there is a fit for you.


Written by Nathanial Marshall, Practitioner at LI Europe.

Once the spotlight is taken away from an area of focused improvement, many Manufacturing Managers are concerned about the sustainability of these improvements. We would all like to live in an ideal world where individuals continue to own and drive improvement activity but the truth is, people often get bogged down in the daily grind of operations.

If this sounds familiar, it’s worth knowing the answers to these 3 questions before starting an improvement programme:

  1. Who will act as the conscience for the improvement initiatives to ensure they are on track?
  2. After the period of focused improvement, who will continue to engage the shop floor in the
    improvement, celebrate and share success, and help remove roadblocks along the way?
  3. Is anyone on your site trained in delivering and coaching key improvement and sustainability tools which will drive the right focus, engagement, behaviours and ultimately improvement?

As a key part of our sustainability improvement model (SIM), we advocate each site trains an Improvement Champion. Typically, we find candidates for the role already exist on site, either as part of the management team or the shop floor.

We execute a See-Try-Do approach when training client’s CI champions, the same as we do with our own practitioners.  With each iteration of the training, our support reduces until they are fully signed off to deliver training themselves.

I recently went back to visit a factory where I had previously trained several Improvement Champions in our improvement and sustainability tools. By using the See-Try-Do approach across a series of improvement workshops, each targeting >£100k of annualised savings, the CI Champions had become self-sufficient to deliver their site improvement targets without any external support.

The site has since delivered year on year savings in efficiency and waste and has continued to make progress in the SIM which now incorporates improvement workshops in their annual strategic plan.

For more on the See-Try-Do approach and the benefits it can deliver, download the full case study.

And if you are disappointed with your current improvement programme or worried about its sustainability, get in touch.