Gemba Days – a refreshing approach to engaging the workforce

Bev Couzensmental health, News, News & Events

Gemba Days

In a recent post on Instagram, employees of London’s Michelin starred, Mexican-British inspired Kol restaurant spent a day, along with head chef Santiago Lastra, at one of the businesses farm suppliers learning to forage for ingredients and produce cheese.

The purpose of this exercise was to help the restaurant staff who otherwise spend their working days behind the scenes of a busy kitchen understand where some of the products that are consistently used as a base for the amazing dishes served at the restaurant come from and how they are made.

This concept of connecting and understanding the organics of a business is not a new one. In fact, it originates from a Japanese concept known as Gemba, which in translation means ‘the actual place.’ Gemba days in Japan were originally introduced to allow leadership teams to walk the floor of factories or interact with customer-facing employees. The purpose of a Gemba day is for leaders to observe processes, connect with other parts of the business, listen, and find out what’s really going on.

Whilst Gemba days ultimately help to monitor productivity, they also help leaders to stay attuned to what really goes on the shop floor, thus enabling them to not only keep processes streamlined but also modify company policies to make sure employees are happy and valued, hence building trust, and increasing retention rates. Gemba days have been proven to encourage understanding, cohesiveness, and collaboration within the workplace.

Now, what’s the best way to introduce this different concept to our teams? Some employees may be resistant to the way of working initially. Some may see it as a waste of time or may think (particularly in sales) that their time would be better spent chasing KPI’s or focusing on customer service or general business getting. As leaders, it is important to provide employees with a clear understanding of how a Gemba day works and how it will benefit workers and the business overall.

New concepts such as this, whilst being effective overall, may need to be introduced at a slower pace to employees and we as leaders must make sure to outline a clearly defined set of expectations.

As leaders, our role is to help teams understand how concepts such as this exciting new Gemba day exercise will help to ultimately form better company policies, encourage best practices, increase productivity, and maintain employee contentment.

In practical terms what can we do? 

Perhaps ask a colleague in customer services to go out with a salesperson to observe and give them a specific issue to review.  Or ask a senior leader to spend a morning on the shop floor. Get a colleague from production to spend a day in the finance team working with purchase order issues – it may uncover a better way of doing things. There are many ways Gemba can be introduced in a productive and non-threatening way.

Why not give it a go?