Customer service agent helping employee

Understanding the quality of work

Striving for continuous improvement to elevate business output standards

4 minute read
Customer service agent helping employee

In the world of key performance indicators (KPIs) and performance analyses, employees must work with the fleetness of the hare to meet their organisation’s expectations.

Yet, in some industries, the methodical approach of the tortoise is required – whether it is to provide a diagnosis or to create a product that is safe for use.

Quality of output is not always quantitative and its definition varies from workplace to workplace, so analysing it can be a challenge for employers.

Understanding what high-quality work encompasses can allow managers to foster it, creating continuous improvement both in the organisation and the individual.

Why is quality of work important?

In many industries, such as the service industry, quality is determined by its consumers, which is reflected in the reputation of the brand and affects the bottom line.

“It is the customer who defines what quality looks like, and good managers will use customer data to measure it,” Perdisco Consulting Management Consultant Brian Hammond AFAIM said.

“For example, police have to maintain a level of crime according to public expectations not how many people were arrested per month, while mortgage brokers provide customers with mortgages meeting their specific needs not how many enquiries they received in a week.

“That is not to say this data isn’t interesting or useful, but it makes for a poor definition of quality and, in some cases, can promote poor quality of work to meet KPIs.”

According to EQ Academy Founder and Chief Executive Officer Ushma Dhanak, quality of work is important because it sits at the very core of some industries.

“Healthcare is another sector where quality takes precedence over quantity of output,” she said.

“In medical professions, each procedure or diagnosis requires careful attention and the wellbeing of individuals is prioritised over the volume of cases.”

How to improve the quality of work

Improving the quality of work takes place at both the individual and organisational levels.

For companies, improvement can be sought by providing staff with the opportunity to upskill and develop.

“Providing training and resources is important,” Ms Dhanak said.

“Offering workshops on stress management, time management and equipping staff with the tools to prioritise tasks can empower them to navigate pressure more effectively and not only enhance their capabilities but also build their confidence in handling demanding situations.”

At the individual level, Mr Hammond said employees must be able to judge the satisfaction of consumers and take their feedback on board.

“It is not enough for just the manager or supervisor to know what quality looks like – the employee needs to know and understand it themselves.” 

“The customer is a department or a team that receives a product or service from you," he said.

“Working closely with them helps you to understand their definition of quality, therefore improving your work output.”

What is continuous improvement in the workplace?

The pursuit of producing quality output feeds into a mindset known as continuous improvement.

According to Mr Hammond, this concept is rooted in the Japanese term ‘kaizen’.

“The term is a philosophical one and introduces the mindset required to produce a behaviour of continuous improvement,” he said.

“The true meaning of kaizen is that a person needs to be disciplined enough to see they can improve, learn and be better for the sake of the greater team or group.”

According to Ms Dhanak, continuous improvement is essential for organisational success because it drives innovation.

“By consistently identifying and addressing inefficiencies, organisations can enhance their processes, products and services,” she said.

“Continuous improvement involves a commitment to identifying areas for growth, making incremental changes, and fostering a culture of learning and innovation.

“It’s not just about fixing what’s broken but also proactively seeking ways to optimise and elevate performance.

“This iterative approach driven by feedback and collaboration ensures teams and organisations are always evolving and delivering their best work.”

How to ensure high quality when working under pressure

Mr Hammond said the best approach in high-pressure situations was for management to take as much pressure as possible off employees, so they did not get overwhelmed.

“Employers need to do everything they can to reduce pressure so that employees can focus on quality outputs,” he said.

“For example, Boeing build planes that, if the quality is poor, will drastically affect customers.

“Their production line for Boeing 737s understands this and has a two-hour buffer at the end of each shift, which means employees do not feel rushed and can check their work, feel like they can stop production if something were to go wrong and have time to improve the process.”

According to Ms Dhanak, another way to relieve pressure and deliver is to seek ways in which to integrate collaboration into the DNA of the working environment.

“Promoting a culture of collaboration and support is essential,” she said.

“When employees feel they can rely on their colleagues and leadership for assistance, it creates a sense of teamwork that can alleviate stress.”