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Gaining employee buy-in for your ISO 9001:2015 implementation

Implementing an ISO 9001:2015 compliant Quality Management System (QMS) normally requires a lot of work from a lot of people within an organization, but one aspect that it is possible to overlook is the importance of employee engagement or “buy-in.” In the previous article How to comply with new leadership requirements in ISO 9001:2015 we considered the part that organizational leaders should play, but gaining the hearts and minds of your organization’s employees can make the difference between a smooth, efficient, and beneficial QMS implementation and operation, and a frustrating and problematic one. The habits, relationships, and disciplines you establish with the employee team during the implementation of the QMS can set the foundation for the future performance, so it is vital that employee engagement is established early in the implementation phase. So, how do we go about achieving this?

Employee buy-in: How to achieve it

“Engagement of people” is one of the stated quality management principles mentioned in the ISO 9001:2015 standard, while Section 7 of the standard deals with “Resources” and the role of people and the environment that those people create as a result. What the standard doesn’t specify is what means the ISO 9001:2015 practitioner should use to engage the employees, and therefore encourage a level of buy-in that ensures that the project itself and resulting QMS performance can flourish. So, what can we do to give us this foundation that will ensure our employees have the enthusiasm and “know-how” to facilitate a smooth 9001 implementation and continued performance?

  • Involve employees in initial communication: The first part of ensuring buy-in is ensuring the employees feel involved and informed right from the start of the implementation process. You only get one chance to make a good impression, and failing to engage and inform at the first opportunity can be difficult to recover.
  • Clearly explain the benefits: Many people are, by nature, wary of change. Explain the benefits of an effective QMS and an ISO 9001:2015 accreditation: satisfied customers, increased opportunity for new customers, enhanced reputation, and a certificate that transcends language barriers within the business community. All of these aspects should illustrate that ISO 9001:2015 and the accompanying QMS results and performance equal better business prospects and increased job security for employees.
  • Demonstrate and involve: Engage the employees at every stage whenever possible. Involve the employees in any processes that support the QMS, clearly illustrate the “why and how” and elicit employee opinion wherever possible. While you have a prescribed ISO 9001:2015 standard to maintain compliance with, normally nobody knows the process better than the people who use it every day.
  • Share objectives and results: Critically, ensure that employees see the output of the processes that support the QMS. Continual improvement means good news for stakeholders, shareholders, customers, and suppliers.
  • Engage and elicit opinions: Processes like corrective action and internal audit are at the heart of the QMS and its activity, so involve your employees in these processes where possible. Increased involvement means increased knowledge and heightened opinion, and suggestions for continual improvement will be the result.
  • Celebrate with employees: Ensure that employees share the success stories and sense of achievement that success brings. Increased involvement brings an increased sense of responsibility, which is a huge positive.

So, given we can achieve all of the above, exactly what benefits can we expect to see?

Successful employee involvement: The benefits

The most obvious benefit of good employee buy-in is a smooth ISO 9001:2015 implementation; however, the most tangible benefits will be more long term. Your QMS performance can be strengthened at every point by vigilant and knowledgeable employees who have a sense of what is “in or out of scope,” and share the vision of what the QMS and resultant 9001 accreditation can do for your organization. Increased employee involvement in future customer visits and audits can help you demonstrate that your vision of “quality” is shared by your employees, and not just the team selected to host the audit themselves, and that is a valuable message to be able to convey to your customers. Get your employees buy-in early in the 9001 implementation process, and the benefits will follow.

To help your employees understand what ISO 9001 is about, and the benefits of implementing it, use this free Why ISO 9001:2015? Awareness Presentation.

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.