The Road to ISO Certification Affects Employees
Once an organisation pursues ISO certification, its management team must plan and anticipate changes in a sequence of stages. Employees are unable to process changes all at once, and they need time to adjust their attitudes. The management team must consider the impact of changing major work structures and associated processes on many employees and the effects of smaller changes on limited groups of employees. Most importantly, all required changes must take place over time. Managers must implement any change process with sensitivity to employees’ needs in order to prevent unnecessary backlashes to customers. Otherwise, negative employee attitudes could defeat the purpose of obtaining certification.
Why Do It
One way to contemplate obtaining ISO certification is that the process is time efficient. There will be benefits for the organisation, including a better public image and streamlined operations, which usually translate to cost savings and greater efficiency. Employees may also experience increased morale in their workplace and customers’ perceptions of higher value. Quite frankly, people enjoy their work in the certified organisation more, but the process of change could be painful at some points. Management has responsibility to make the case for certification and must provide support during the transition period.
Quality is the Focus
The process of securing ISO certification includes assessing all areas of the organisation and encouraging every group of workers to enhance their focus on quality. An organisation must develop and maintain adequate documentation to show how a standard will be met. An organisation must remove barriers to efficiency. An organisation must implement more quality controls to ensure that instances of poor quality are addressed (i.e. that fewer faulty products reach customers). Root causes of poor quality require remediation.
Managing the Process of Change
Research has shown some negative implications of ISO certification, one of which is the perception that employees must work harder throughout the process. They will have to perform “two jobs” and then “write” about it. At first, if managers haven’t presented the case effectively for ISO certification, employees may have negative responses to the whole process. Whereas employees might have to make some changes to how they do their jobs and develop the right documentation, their efforts will pay off when the certification process is complete. They will work in more streamlined units while enjoying a better understanding of how their work contributes to quality standards and company goals.
Many organisations pursue ISO certification because they want to respond to customer demands for higher quality. They have a dilemma of which certification body to choose for their company. Some of their considerations may include steps that are involved and how they will impact employees. Other considerations will revolve around what certification from a particular body means for the company. Before choosing an ISO certification body, we recommend that organisations consider the current level of quality that’s in place and how employees could use the certification process to raise that higher. This in effect provides long term benefits to customers.
A company can aspire to higher quality standards and produce documentation to show how those are met, but its employees must reinforce those standards over time through their individual and collective behaviors. Otherwise, there will be a temporary improvement in the organisation based on initial efforts, but operating conditions and quality levels will diminish over time. Once employee efforts diminish, the organisation’s reputation will decline, which is bad for worker morale and customer perceptions.