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Lean Six Sigma Process Improvement Results:
Saved 2,000 hours per year and reduced email handling by 60%.

UC San Diego continues its Lean Six Sigma journey with a successful DMAIC project conducted by Kristin Kielich where they saved 2,000 hours a year in the Employee Onboarding Process!


Project Summary

All Onboard: Improving the Employee Onboarding Process

With hundreds of employees being hired in a single department per year, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Kristin Kielich, a Senior Strategic Initiatives Analyst at UC San Diego, and her team of problem solvers set out to make the hiring process faster and easier for every party involved.


Define Phase: Identify the Problem

After initial research, Kristin Kielich found:

  • The current form and the workflow was too long and disorganized.
  • The number of tasks in emails generated were overwhelming and email content was without specific action.
  • There was not enough knowledge being imparted to the Hiring Managers, creating obstacles in their effort to be efficient or effective in the process.

…our goal was to streamline and clarify that process for all the stakeholders to increase the completion of the onboarding form to 100% and ensure 100% of new hires are properly set up and able to work on their start day.

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: Executive Summary, Project Charter, SIPOC, Gemba Walk, Voice of the Customer, Customer Critical-to-Quality


Measure Phase: Quantify the Problem

To collect the data, the team measured cycle times, generated surveys and looked into information from the onboarding process and the form itself.

  • The team found that the median time to onboard was 7 days, but 25% of the process took 20 to 104 days.
  • 30 pieces of data were required to be input by the HR Department, while Hiring Managers had 40 and Senior Managers had 5.
  • 184 email notifications were being sent out per new hire.

We wanted to go with solid data for this process improvement for our client. And that ultimately is what we started playing around with is figuring out a little bit more of the reasoning behind these totals and how we can find some improvements.

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: Data Collection Plan, Process Walk


Analyze Phase: Identify the Cause of the Problem

It was time to identify the root causes, so Kristin and the team:

  • Utilized the 5 Whys to identify that the form content and the lack of knowledge were really impacting the onboarding process
  • Used a Fishbone Diagram and surveys to find out why the onboarding completion was at 48%They found the consistent theme of lack of knowledge and confidence in the process.
  • Sought after identifying only the steps that were value-adding after confirming their hypothesis that the form was complicated, long and there were too many steps.

I want to point out that each onboarding workflow generated 184 emails. And 184 times 72 average in new hires, you can see what jumps out to you on this slide is 13,248 emails that are being generated on average and with over 100 fields on the form.

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: 5 Whys, Fishbone Diagram, Value-Added Flow Analysis, Root Cause Hypothesis


Improve Phase: Implement and Verify the Solution

Now that they verified their hypothesis and conducted the research necessary, the teams began the implementation of process improvements:

  • To address the issue of confusion and non-value-added steps, they redesigned the form so that it was grouped by stakeholder sections while also eliminating unnecessary fields.
  • To address the absence of knowledge, they created a reference guide for all Hiring Managers on all common questions that was initially causing them to take longer to complete the previous forms. The forms were also pre-populated to help expedite the process.
  • They tailored notification content by adding footers that noted how to complete the onboarding process.

By conducting a stakeholder improvement session, they were able to develop these improvements and create a forum to address other concerns in the process that impact the customer experience.

The Improvement Results:

  • Saved $50,000 in annual labor and increased adoption of the process.
  • Saved 413 labor hours in reference to emails associated with tasks.

So, it took some time. I want to point that out. But my teammates did a great job as we all worked through this with these subject matter experts to ensure everything that was implemented ended up having a great impact.

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: Implementing Improvements, Reducing Process Steps, Developing Knowledge Guides and Updating the User Experience.


Kristin Kielich - GoLeanSixSigma.com

My Lean Six Sigma Training has really been critical in providing me with the tools to look at a process and identify ways to have tools to improve that process.

Kristin Kielich
Senior Strategic Initiatives Analyst, UC San Diego Extension

Control Phase: Maintain the Solution

To aide in controlling the results, Kristin shares that they have since implemented a Monitor & Response Plan by building in opportunities for feedback and controlling the gains they had projected. They also implemented periodic surveys with the customers to ensure satisfaction.

By celebrating the improvement and inspiring a continued effort, the team had a “brown-bag” lunch to talk about the changes and celebrate and acknowledge the efforts the team put into the project.

We really hope that this project will set the stage nicely for other workflow platforms on campus that they can now by all means take what we’ve done, see what works, and apply it to their own process.

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: Monitor & Response Plan, Executive Summary


A Sneak Peak Into the Full Success Story Webinar:

Tracy O’Rourke: Wonderful. So, just a few questions for you about the project. So, what do you think was the most challenging thing about the project when you look back? Were there any difficult parts of the process define, measure, analyze, improve, and control?

Kristin Kielich: Oh, absolutely. I remember one challenge that stands out – actually, there are two. One was just first finding good data that you can work with because it’s tempting to want to run with your project but you need that solid data. And I talked about Tracy and Marina, my partners on this project, and that was a huge challenge. I want to say thank you to Tracy who worked really hard on finding the good data for us because there were lots of data out there but finding the right one for your process to make the appropriate improvements is key.

One was just first finding good data that you can work with because it’s tempting to want to run with your project but you need that solid data.

And secondly, just with every project, the people component is always a challenge because people take great pride in the process and in the work that they do, and making sure people knew, here we are as new Green Belts at the time coming in to talk about their process and they feel subject matter experts, they’ve been doing it a certain for years. And just learning how to work with people so they feel comfortable that we’re not here to stop you from doing anything that isn’t – that if you want to do something, tell us about it.

But if you have opportunities where we can help you by showing the data as to what – this might not even be needed so you can spend your time somewhere else. But we are really thankful for that. So just learning how to open the door with conversations whether it was the team, the Hiring Managers, and yeah, working with people, it can be a challenge when you’re going into their lives and doing your Gemba walk and asking them questions.



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Success Story Transcript

Tracy O’Rourke: Hello and welcome to our Success Story series hosted by GoLeanSixSigma.com. My name is Tracy O’Rourke and I’m a Managing Partner and Executive Advisor at GoLeanSixSigma.com.

We are very excited to have this offering because this is where the rubber meets the road. This is when we talk about real projects that have been completed by process improvement practitioners and we want to share those stories with you.

Today, we are talking with Kristin Kielich from UC San Diego. And before we let Kristin tell you about her project, let me tell you a little bit about Kristin.

About Our Presenter

Kristin has worked in higher education since 2007 and currently works at UC San Diego as a Senior Strategic Initiatives Analyst in the Office of Operational Strategic Initiatives. Wow! Is that a mouthful!

Kristin leads efforts that are focused on operational innovations and identifies collaborative business solutions. Prior to her current role, Kristin served as the Program Manager for Campus Sustainability where she led UC San Diego to being ranked as one of the top sustainable campuses in the nation. That’s amazing, Kristin.

Kristin Kielich: Thank you.

Tracy O’Rourke: Due to her efforts, she was recognized with the 2011 Exemplary Staff Employee of the Year Award. Congratulations!

Kristin Kielich: Thanks.

Tracy O’Rourke: And Kristin also has an MBA and is a Certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. So you were a graduate of the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt at UC San Diego’s Extension. What was the course like?

Kristin Kielich: I can’t say enough praise about the Lean Six Sigma Program through UCSD Extension. I’ve often recommended it to several colleagues and even some of our interns that are looking to advance their careers. It has really been critical in providing me with the tools to look at a process and identify ways to have tools to improve that process. And I even use it outside of work. I’m applying it at home whether it’s 5S to our pantry and garage to literally anything that is a process which is everything.

I’m applying it at home whether it’s 5S to our pantry and garage to literally anything that is a process which is everything.

Tracy O’Rourke: I know. It’s exciting to actually see people go through the course and have that impact as you’re talking about where they just apply it in their world and that’s what we want people to do, is look at the world really with different new eyes.

Kristin Kielich: Exactly, yeah. It has been a game-changer. And I tell people that. I really did enjoy the class that you taught. So thank you, Tracy, and also thank you for giving me the tools to continue using this professionally and also just outside what I’m doing at UC San Diego.

Tracy O’Rourke: You’re welcome. And it was a pleasure having you in class. I’m really excited to share with the world your project. And so, I just also wanted to note that UC San Diego was ranked the 15th Best University in the World by the Academic Ranking of World Universities last year and it’s also the World’s 4th Best Public College, which I think is amazing.

I think what’s really interesting is UC San Diego is really practicing process improvement. They’ve got a whole entire organization within UC San Diego, the Office of Strategic Initiatives that’s implementing process improvement at UC San Diego, right?

Kristin Kielich: Yes, that’s correct.

Tracy O’Rourke: And so, is that a new group?

Kristin Kielich: Yes. We were formally organized in 2014.

Tracy O’Rourke: Wow! And so, I just think it’s amazing that the entire university is trying to employ process improvement and really leveraging those tools to make it easier and better for students that are attending the university. So that’s great.

…I just think it’s amazing that the entire university is trying to employ process improvement and really leveraging those tools to make it easier and better for students that are attending the university. So that’s great.

Kristin Kielich: It is. Yeah. It grew out of a strategic plan, the first complete, holistic strategic plan for UC San Diego. And our department ever since then has just been finding ways to help departments improve, continuously improve and strive for perfection through these different process, improvement projects to strategic efforts. It has been really fun.

Tracy O’Rourke: Cool. So, let’s hear a little bit about your project.

“All On Board” Improving the Onboarding Process

Kristin Kielich: Great. So, our project for the Green Belt Plus was focusing on one department that we would not be naming them today. But we worked with a large department that onboards hundreds of staff members every single year. And they wanted to find a way to make that process of onboarding someone faster and easier for every party involved.

So we called it All Onboard. What that actually means is we were looking at the part of a process where an employee has accepted their offer letter and they now need to have all authorization set up, all equipment set up at a desk and space identified so that by day 1, the end of this process, they are able to start their jobs and be successful.

So I want to start by one, thanking Tracy for the opportunity to have your guidance and leadership throughout the process of implementing this project. And secondly, to the team. This was not just me. I worked with Tracy Carpenter and Marina Bogdanova from UC San Diego. And the three of us together did this entire project, so as you hear me talking about we, that’s who I’m referring to, and also, our classmates who helped us with advice as we went through the process of improving the onboarding process.

Tracy O’Rourke: Wonderful. Sounds great. And what I love about this project is this really can be applicable to any organization that is bringing on employees because it’s all about onboarding and improving the onboarding process. So I think there’s going to be a lot of learnings in here.

Executive Summary

Kristin Kielich: I hope so. Yes. All right. So, we can start with the high level executive summary of the project. Our business case was as I had mentioned, there are six new employees that were being hired at the moment. And so every year, this department had an equivalent of about 8.5 months of staff hours dedicated to onboarding these new employees. And we found that they have hundreds of new employees being hired every year. So we wanted to find a more efficient way to onboard staff that would significantly reduce the cost and effort devoted to the onboarding process, which can be redirected now to other parties that the department had.

So what we did as a team is we looked at the root causes for why this process was taking so long and why there was frustration from the customers involved. And what we ultimately found was first, the form and the automated workflow was too long and disorganized. The number of tasks in emails generated were overwhelming and email content was without specific action or direction for our customers that were asking them to follow through with something. And third, there was not enough knowledge that was being imparted to the Hiring Managers.

So what we did we did for our solutions was we streamlined the process itself. We redesigned the form that drove the entire the process. We incorporated onboarding process discussion in the recruitment meeting and then we finally created a concise guide for the hiring managers to reference.

And as a result of these efforts, we actually realized we saved about six months of staff time or over a thousand hours. And that’s the equivalency of about $58,000 in paid benefits for that time. And we reduced email handling by 60%. So we reduced it 413 hours of touch time on those emails.

We also reduced the number of data input by 36%. So we’ll actually dive deeper into this as we go along. And you can see here a graphical display of what that looks like, the before and after implementation for this process. Great reduction in emails that were being sent out regarding the onboarding process to all parties involved with getting this person onboarded.

The form itself that drives this process of what is needed for the new employee, we reduced the fields involved for that. And then finally, the tasks, there is a reduction in tasks involved as well.

Tracy O’Rourke: Wow! That sounds great. I can wait to see the details. This is what I love about the executive summary. It tells you kind of upfront like what the project was about and what the results were and it really can pique interest for people to go, “Whoa! How did you do that?” So, let’s do it.

Project Charter

Kristin Kielich: Right. Yes. Let’s show you. All right. So let’s jump into the D in DMAIC, Define. So for the project charter itself, you heard a little bit about the problem statement that the hiring managers were not always using the established process and tools of the automated workflow to onboard their new hires during a perception of a complicated and confusing process and form.

…hiring managers were not always using the established process and tools of the automated workflow to onboard their new hires during a perception of a complicated and confusing process and form.

Another way to put that is we were asking people to help us get someone onboarded and the Hiring Managers were telling us that it was extremely confusing to use the established tools that we had. And we had to work with other departments and various parties that were using their own tool. So there was a lot of miscommunication and there’s a lot of confusion surrounding the process itself. People doing their own workflows and we came in to help look at the entire process itself of onboarding for everyone involved.

And this all reflected in the 48% completion rate of the onboarding form. So people just didn’t like it and didn’t use it or they were using another instance that they had used through different technology. And as a result of that, there’s only 19% completion rate for assigned tasks.

The result of the inability for HR and Hiring Managers to properly track the onboarding status completion and issues, and as you can probably guess that led to a lot of confusion surrounding the process and where everything was in the process of getting someone onboard and whether they were assigned the appropriate authorization. And that could be access to specific buildings. We needed people to be set up. And if they weren’t using the forms then we couldn’t tell where it was at until the person was actually hired or reaching out to people and having them, the staff members call each other to figure out where everything was at with getting someone onboarded.

And as a result, our goal was to streamline and clarify that process for all the stakeholders to increase the completion of the onboarding form to 100% and ensure a 100% of new hires are properly set up and able to work on their start day.

…our goal was to streamline and clarify that process for all the stakeholders to increase the completion of the onboarding form to 100% and ensure a 100% of new hires are properly set up and able to work on their start day.

And if you think about that, Tracy, just the first day, someone comes in, there’s a – we talked about the soft savings associated with this project and the hard savings but there’s an additional cost. If someone can’t start immediately to do the job they are hired to do, that’s terrible for UC San Diego when they’re waiting around, and that’s complete waste looking at it from a Lean perspective.

So that was our goal, to reduce that as much as we could. And the instructions and constraints that we had were new hires are being provided space equipment and access just not efficiently. We also assumed that the dataset contains mixed information due to the insertion of new sets in the process. So that influenced what data we are looking at.

And then finally, the scope of the project does not include changing the technology or the platforms which turned out to be highly desired by all of the stakeholders. So we know they are looking at implementing a new technology but for now, we wanted to start with the process itself.

And a lot of people as you – you’ve experienced once, to jump with a new technological solution. And we were saying, “Let’s fix the process first.” And then we knew somewhere down the road that technology – a new solution would come in as well for the technology that was being used for the platform.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. I think what I really like is that you’re absolutely right. People always jump to solution and it’s always not a major solution. And what ends up happening is people automate bad processes. And so the fact that you are focusing on fixing the process is a great example.

And then the other thing that you had mentioned is not only is it bad for UC San Diego when new hires can’t work efficiently right away but it just doesn’t feel good for the new hire, right? Nobody wants to have that feeling of, “Oh, they weren’t ready for me.” Right?

Kristin Kielich: Right.

Tracy O’Rourke: So I also agree having a streamlined onboarding process just helps with people feeling like they made the right decision. Right?

Kristin Kielich: Right. Exactly. Yeah. And I also want to point out on this slide that because groups weren’t completing the onboarding form did not mean that they weren’t doing their job. Everyone we worked with was working very hard to onboard people as best they could. And some of them had better systems, to be honest with you, set up or different technologies that worked for them. And I think this just goes to show when you’re working with different groups that sometimes don’t have the ability to meet with each other frequently and everything is done electronically.

I just want to point out, because they didn’t complete it, they sometimes had great processes set up. We just needed to find one that works for everyone. So that is our project overview for the charter.

SIPOC

So let’s look at who is involved in this process. Our suppliers were the HR Department and the Hiring Managers from this department. The input was the onboarding form and that actually drove the entire process.

The process itself was that hire preparation and onboarding process which entails the notice of the recruitment being generated, the onboarding workflow kickoff. So there was an email sent off as soon as the onboarding workflow was sent.

The form was completed and tasks were assigned. Internal service units provided resources in enclosed tasks. HR would then be notified of the completed form. A cell phone and special access would be held for the new employee and then the employee would start.

So the scope of this project focuses on the end of a hiring process where most of the work is done once a job offer is extended and accepted.

Current State Process Map

And of course, we did our Gemba walk. So we walked the current state to look at how everything was working. And to do this, we created a fictional account for the hire or a new employee and we actually tracked who it went to. We walked the process and probably the first takeaway as you can see is did you realize how many steps would be involved with onboarding someone and look at how many groups were involved.

So as we looked at this, we knew there were probably some opportunities to reduce the movement and to also reduce some of the notifications that were sent. A lot of people were being notified when they didn’t need to be. So just walking the process, we are able to already start identifying some forms of waste within the process.

So as we looked at this, we knew there were probably some opportunities to reduce the movement and to also reduce some of the notifications that were sent. A lot of people were being notified when they didn’t need to be. So just walking the process, we are able to already start identifying some forms of waste within the process.

Voice of the Customer

So what we did is we hosted a Voice of the Customer Workshop. And my team members and I, we had sent out a survey to 70 of the Hiring Managers. Two of the questions that we asked had open-ended answers, which included what is working well with the onboarding process and what isn’t working well with the onboarding process?

And you will notice in the responses that this 2-word clause. What was working well was the people? Specific staff members were called out for how much they went out of their way to help the Hiring Managers get through this process and ensure someone was set up with the appropriate materials for their first day.

And what wasn’t working well was the process itself. People were very confused about where things were in the process. And because people were using different systems, it looked like things and tasks weren’t being completed when in actuality the other department was using their own systems.

So it required a lot of manual labor to figure out and coordinate where everything was at to get someone onboarded.

Our key takeaway was that stakeholders think customer service from HR is great, but the process and the technology are not. And you can see here, we actually ask people to then further build out their root causes of what was working well and what wasn’t working well within the process. And we had some themed areas and people could then go to a focused area and provide solutions, ideas.

Our key takeaway was that stakeholders think customer service from HR is great, but the process and the technology are not.

We started with really diving deep into the root cause of the process and we started with telling them, “Here is what you said in your surveys.” And then they add into that and we have them multi this. So you can see them here on the right-hand side. There’s someone putting up a round circular vote and they help us identify the root cause and some primary opportunities to fix the process form and the knowledge that they felt were the root causes of the process.

Tracy O’Rourke: Looks like a fun process of gathering data.

Kristin Kielich: Yeah, it definitely was.

Customer Critical-to-Quality (CTQ’s)

So we took that input and we created a Voice of the Customer Translation Matrix to make sense of everything and we reflected on all the input from our 70 Hiring Managers. And what we found was people were frustrated with the process because it wasn’t easy to understand. The technology was not easy to use. And they wanted more training in communication. That’s the simplest way to summarize a lot of the input that we received.

Measure

So, we went to Measure, and we’re now in the Measure Phase. And to collect some data, we looked at cycle times, we generated several surveys, and we looked into information from the onboarding process and the form itself.

Data Collection Plan

And ultimately, there were three solid pieces of data that were available. The date and the time stand for creating an onboarding workflow. The data and time set for creating and modifying a task, email notifications to whom, for what, and a fourth piece of data discovered was the number of form fields.

Tracy O’Rourke: Is that a very challenging part to identify what you had available?

Kristin Kielich: Yes. I am glad you asked that, Tracy, because my team member, Tracy, did a lot of work on this and I want to really give her kudos for her trying to find good data because we didn’t want the whole garbage in, garbage out.

And this might talks a little bit about – we looked at cycle times and we ultimately found out that cycle time is subjective to measure in this case. And we – it was manipulated by the start day of initiating the onboarding process so we didn’t really use the cycle times to influence much of what we were doing and we ended up using a lot of the dates and timing from the form itself.

Time From Onboarding Kick-Off to Employee Staff

So to further explain that, on the left side, you can see here – because it’s our Green Belt, we wanted to show we know these tools to our class. And if you were to look at box plot of this process, you would be thinking, “Oh my gosh! What is going on?” Because the median time to onboard was 7 days but 25% of the process took 20 to 104 days. And there were a lot of variation within that.

…the median time to onboard was 7 days but 25% of the process took 20 to 104 days.

So we think, great, this is Lean Six Sigma where it’s all about reducing variation. And we wanted to show for this situation the process that were made had unintended consequences. So on the right hand side, you’re seeing the time between the initiation of the onboarding and the employee start date. And if you were just to look at it, you might think, “Oh my gosh! Well, why is it taking so long in September?”

But really what we found is through walking the process, some of the stakeholders told us we changed the process to be better. Are you so proud of us? We now send them an email the moment we are hiring someone to give everyone a heads-up that this is happening.

And so ultimately, all they did is shift when they start the clock for the onboarding process but they didn’t really change the steps or change anything else.

Tracy O’Rourke: Interesting. Good explanation.

Kristin Kielich: Yeah. Well, we are hoping – I love looking at cycle time and for value stream mapping, we just weren’t able to use it because they had manipulated the start time and it really threw off the cycle time overall for how long it took to have someone join UC San Diego and onboard them.

Workload Measures

So what we could look at is the workload measures. And if you look at the form which we will show you a little bit later, there were several components to a form. So we had our HR Department and they had 30 pieces of data required to be input by their team. And then you can see here the Hiring Managers have the most with 40, the Senior Manager 5 and so on.

And then we looked at the number of email notifications that were being sent out. And you can see in total, we had over a 184 – I think it was a 184 emails that were sent out. So the more reliable measures of efficiency were found in the data being requested in the form and then the number of emails generated.

And we wanted to go with solid data for this process improvement for our client. And that ultimately is what we started playing around with is figuring out a little bit more of the reasoning behind these totals and how we can find some improvements.

Analyze

So if we go into now the A in DMAIC, we’re looking at how we analyze that data.

5 Whys – Onboarding Workflow Document Is Not Completed

And we of course applied the 5 Whys to the onboarding workflow document. And figuring out why is it not being completed. And you’ve heard me mention a couple of reasons earlier but at the end of the day, what we found is that it was just the form content and the lack of knowledge were really impacting the onboarding process. And if someone had a process that worked for them, of course, they were going to use their process and their technology instead.

And we wanted to find a solution that works for everyone which is why we had a stakeholder improvement process meeting held and that was really helpful for that. The process walks and the stakeholder meetings indicated that at the heart of the problem was the form content and the lack of knowledge overall. So that was helpful for us to work with.

Fishbone Diagram

You can see here the fishbone diagram. And this was generated from walking the process from the surveys we get sent out to our 70 Hiring Managers that completed the survey. What we can see are the major themes as to why the onboarding completion was at 48%.

And after we met with everyone and looked at the root causes, what emerged was in red, the key reasons and you could see it actually next it in parenthesis to receive the votes that each one received. So you can see some of the main reasons why the root causes for not completing the form itself.

And the Hiring Managers Workshop showed that the main problems occurred in the areas of knowledge, process, and form. And that the platform is not in the scope of this project so we weren’t going to deal with that even though you can tell it is clearly a pain point that eventually will be addressed by that department.

Hypothesis Confirmations

So our hypothesis that the three of them were all true, that the form was complicated, that the lead time between the notification of the start of the onboarding process and when a stakeholder can take action was just simply too long for all those involved in the process. And by the time they needed their staff to take action, they wanted more timely notifications sent. So there were just too many tasks, too many notifications.

And as you can see at the bottom, I want to point out, each onboarding workflow generated 184 emails. And 184 times 72 average in new hires, you can see what jumps out to you on this slide is 13,248 emails that are being generated on average and with over 100 fields on the form.

So, our takeaway here is very clear. The amount of information being requested and a number of notifications and the number of people being notified is overwhelming. And we wanted to look at what was value-add and what could be considered for removing from this form.

And as you can see at the bottom, I want to point out, each onboarding workflow generated 184 emails. And 184 times 72 average in new hires, you can see what jumps out to you on this slide is 13,248 emails that are being generated on average and with over 100 fields on the form.

Tracy O’Rourke: Wow!

Kristin Kielich: So they improved that.

List of Improvements

We listed out here essentially our process improvement and then some improvements we’ve made for the knowledge sharing with the different parties involved with onboarding our staff.

And first for process improvements, we reviewed and streamlined the process itself. And I’ll share it to you what that actually looks like for the form. We redesigned the form so that it was grouped by stakeholder sections and we eliminated unnecessary fields.

And then for knowledge, we added review of the onboarding process and form to the initial recruitment meeting with the Hiring Managers so that some of the staff they were taking asking the Hiring Manager later on if it could actually be done in a meeting that was automatically scheduled every time there was a new hire. So we relieved some of the tasks that were put on the Hiring Manager to be taken care of automatically in person with the HR Department.

And then we created a concise reference guide for all Hiring Managers that they could look to with regards to the common questions they brought up to us that was causing them to either take longer to complete the form or whatever it was. We had prepopulated this with the help of our subject matter experts so that now they could have this and hopefully expedite the process.

We tailored notification content. And for that, we had footers in the email that talked about how to complete the onboarding process when someone was emailing out with regards to an onboarding for new staff member. And then we enhance your point sight with reference material so that people could always go somewhere to look for all of this content.

And the stakeholder improvement session helped us developed that. These improvements and then the future state as to where we could pull steps out and how we could address the concerns that our customers brought up in the Voice of the Customer Meeting.

New Process

So, this is our new process. If you remember previously, we had a very – a little amount of movement in our process. So what we did is we actually greatly reduced the amount of steps and even those involved in the amount if involvement whether it would be some of the approvals and missteps and look at what was necessary, what was truly value-add from a customer perspective and then went back to our stakeholders to look at that and develop a new process.

So this is our future state map. And the stakeholder improvement session as I mentioned was really critical on developing this map so I want to give credit to those involved from this department.

So you can see here the new process. And I’m showing you every area where we need an improvement and we made these improvements based off of a meeting we had for the Stakeholder Improvement Session. I want to give credit to them for the hard work they put into saying, “What was truly value-add from a customer perspective versus which of these steps had we been doing just because that existed?”

We’ve been completing maybe something on the form that has just always been asked. And we looked at this hard questions found that a lot of times we’re just doing things that were really over processing when you look at it from a Lean Perspective because we are doing it because everyone else did when really, it wasn’t adding anything to the process.

So we removed unneeded, over processing. We removed motion that you can see the documents and forms were reduced. How many times I had to go to people, the touch points. And we eliminated some of the different notifications that were being sent out that were confusing people. So we cleaned up the entire process. We streamlined it and it just made a lot more sense from everyone’s perspective. And we had all the necessary stakeholders in the room together for a half day workshop.

Really talking about the details of if we make one process improvement to this step, how will that impact everyone else in this room? And that way, we were not just making one improvement to what one stakeholder said would be the panacea when really it might negatively impact others.

So, it took some time. I want to point that out. But my teammates did a great job as we all worked through this with these subject matter experts to ensure everything that was implemented ended up having a great impact.

So, it took some time. I want to point that out. But my teammates did a great job as we all worked through this with these subject matter experts to ensure everything that was implemented ended up having a great impact.

Tracy O’Rourke: That’s great because what we do find sometimes is people just move the work to another group and they don’t actually eliminate it, right? So it just gets moved. Now, another department or group is like, “Hey, you just gave us more work.” So then they are unhappy. So it’s great that you were really diligent and making sure that the work was being eliminated versus just being pushed to somebody else.

Tracy O’Rourke: Right. I also think these meetings are some of my favorites in any Lean process or Lean Six Sigma effort. And what I love about this one, Tracy, I just wanted to point out that I think there’s a lot of connotations that’s surround Lean Six Sigma now. We’ve all heard and for different variations, less staff support or – and it’s a joke but really, when we come in here and we say, “We’re here to talk about what can we do so everyone in this meeting or at the end of this meeting feels they’re adding value and what they’re doing is important. And if I can say I will help you take something off your plate so you have more time to focus on the million other projects you have then let’s do it.”

And that’s I think where we broke some stereotypes about Lean Six Sigma. And we try not to actually use the language of Kaizen and we try to translate everything we are doing for them. And I think that’s as a result that you can see they’re able to open up about what really could be removed and how to look at this from the 10000-foot viewpoint of everyone in it together because they’ve all been working a thousand miles a minute and they were all able to talk. And that was just really critical in finding these aha moments.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. Those are my favorite too.

Previous Onboarding Form

Kristin Kielich: Yeah. So let me show you the previous onboarding form. The previous form had 106 fields that 70 that we’re responsible to complete as indicated by their assigned colors. And as you can tell, it was difficult to see – if you had one of these colors, you might have missed it because it was in a different section. The form is really long. There is not indicator on progress within the form so you couldn’t tell where someone was at with completing their portion of it. And because of this, it led to a lot of confusion.

There is not indicator on progress within the form so you couldn’t tell where someone was at with completing their portion of it. And because of this, it led to a lot of confusion.

So, this is a new form.

Tracy O’Rourke: I’ll just say that that is a great example of automating maybe a bad process, right?

New Onboarding Form

Kristin Kielich: Yeah. I love when you can clean up something and share with everyone. So this is the new form. And here, you can see the new form has 68 fields with 4 responsible units. So that’s a 36% reduction. And the first thing that jumps out to you. It’s shorter. There’s less color. There are fewer fields. It’s easier to navigate. And that was well-received by our customers.

It’s shorter. There’s less color. There are fewer fields. It’s easier to navigate. And that was well-received by our customers.

Tracy O’Rourke: You know what I love about your project is I’ve seen a lot of organizations try to do process improvement and sometimes what happens is they say, “Hey, people aren’t following this process and they’re not filling out this form. And so, my project is about forcing people to adhere to the process.” They have no plan to actually make the process better.

And in this case, you guys did. I mean you could have easily went down the path of we just need to get people to adhere to the process and it’s all about process adherence. But you recognized that there was a reason why and you fixed the issues. And that is a great tribute to this process of the DMAIC because it’s not about just getting people to follow a process and fill out a form. It’s about really looking at the form in the process and saying, “OK, how do we make this easier and better for the people that are using it?” So that’s awesome.

Kristin Kielich: Yeah. Thank you. I know it was great if you saw that Fishbone. There were a lot of opportunities identified by those involved in this. And just saying, “We’re going to start in this one area,” even though they all wanted a new tool, they were all very happy and went to work with us because – of course, we had some challenges but at the end of the day, knowing that they were being listened to had a great impact for all of us. And it’s not easy making these changes. But at the end, they were so thankful to have these initial improvements addressing the key root causes being rolled out.

Results Achieved

So, the results themselves, I wanted to highlight that. We implemented the solutions. And you can see here that resulted in at least $50,000 annually and increased adoption of the process and technology to ensure the new staff are properly set up and able to work and be successful on their actual start day. And the task emails that is about 340 so if you translate that into hours, the email savings is about 396 or 413 including the task emails.

There is the form completion which had 376 hours associated on average with completing the forms from all these different groups involved. And then the extra work we estimated about 130 hours.

So this initially started with, “Oh my gosh! How can we help this process?” When we’re looking at the data, I think all of us were shocked with the opportunity to have an impact on an onboarding process just by changing the form itself and the process involved with completing the steps to get someone onboard. It was eye-opening for all of us.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yeah, that’s great. Wow! Those are great results.

Kristin Kielich: Yeah. We love seeing the before and after and it’s shrinking. So their team was very happy to see and our stakeholders and the project owner was very pleased. And as a result, now we’re going to move into control.

So their team was very happy to see and our stakeholders and the project owner was very pleased.

Control Plan

So, the control plan, we ultimately set up several steps. As you can see, four different steps within the process to ensure as someone who went through the process, we built opportunities for feedback and controlling the gains that we had projected. This proposed control plan focuses on monitoring workflow completion and periodic surveys with the customers to ensure satisfaction scoring, everything was moving along well that all employees had everything they needed and that the services being provided were outstanding.

Let’s Celebrate and Continue Improving

All right. The fun part, celebrating and continuing our improvement. So we had a brown-bag lunch with the department to talk about the changes and celebrate and acknowledge all their effort that they put into this project. I can’t say enough to my team members and the subject matter experts to the stakeholders being willing to work with us. So we had a brown-bag lunch to talk about what it meant to implement these improvements, how we listened to them and what that translated to for their new process. And we shared a glossary of terms and provided with them the requested materials on how to complete the onboarding process questions they had had for years that they – where to go to.

So this was really a celebration where our project owner got to shine, get up there in front of everyone and share all that they had helped us and authorized us to identify for improvements with their team members.

Lessons Learned

So for lessons learned, we put a lot of effort into this and we really hope that this project will set the stage nicely for other workflow platforms on campus that they can now by all means take what we’ve done, see what works, and apply it to their own process. And other campus departments currently using a manual process could benefit from adapting and automated workflow as well.

…we really hope that this project will set the stage nicely for other workflow platforms on campus that they can now by all means take what we’ve done, see what works, and apply it to their own process.

So it was eye-opening for all of us. I’m really thankful I did this in a class environment where we got to share during the process what was happening for the Green Belt project and having a team to work together as the challenges that arise from working on project management in general. And we just hope that we continue to realize these reductions and that at the end of the day this was a positive experience so we can continue working with them in the future on other opportunities as well. So everyone involved hopefully learned something and we can keep the door open for continually improving our processes.

Tracy O’Rourke: Wonderful! That’s exciting. It sounds like it was a good experience and that you were able to really make a difference with using the DMAIC methodology. That’s wonderful.

Kristin Kielich: Yes. We drank the Kool-Aid, Tracy, that you were feeding. We saw that it works. It’s not hype. Lean Six Sigma is truly an amazing set of tools and methodologies that you can apply to any process. So, thank you for your guidance throughout the project and thank you to my team members too. It was a really great experience.

Questions?

Tracy O’Rourke: Wonderful. So, just a few questions for you about the project. So, what do you think was the most challenging thing about the project when you look back? Were there any difficult parts of the process define, measure, analyze, improve, and control?

Kristin Kielich: Oh, absolutely. I remember one challenge that stands out – actually, there are two. One was just first finding good data that you can work with because it’s tempting to want to run with your project but you need that solid data. And I talked about Tracy and Marina, my partners on this project, and that was a huge challenge. I want to say thank you to Tracy who worked really hard on finding the good data for us because there were lots of data out there but finding the right one for your process to make the appropriate improvements is key.

One was just first finding good data that you can work with because it’s tempting to want to run with your project but you need that solid data.

And secondly, just with every project, the people component is always a challenge because people take great pride in the process and in the work that they do, and making sure people knew, here we are as new Green Belts at the time coming in to talk about their process and they feel subject matter experts, they’ve been doing it a certain for years. And just learning how to work with people so they feel comfortable that we’re not here to stop you from doing anything that isn’t – that if you want to do something, tell us about it.

But if you have opportunities where we can help you by showing the data as to what – this might not even be needed so you can spend your time somewhere else. But we are really thankful for that. So just learning how to open the door with conversations whether it was the team, the Hiring Managers, and yeah, working with people, it can be a challenge when you’re going into their lives and doing your Gemba walk and asking them questions.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes, I agree. And it’s great that you say that because you’re right, it is the most challenging and sometimes I find that people don’t really do the right contact setting. And so, sometimes people are very defensive because they’re not really sure where – why people are asking them questions about their piece of the process. So it sounds like you were able to have some really good conversations with stakeholders to get that point of view and perspective to have an open mind. So that’s wonderful.

Do you have any suggestions for someone that is just getting started with process improvement with their – maybe their first project and applying it to education? Do you have any advice for someone?

Kristin Kielich: Well, I think taking a class and having that environment is really helpful because you’re going to encounter a challenge no matter what projects you’re on. And so, having an environment like UC San Diego’s Extension providing the Lean Six Sigma class is perfect for partnering with other people because I can’t tell you what your challenge will be and I tell this to other people but I can tell you we’ll have challenges.

So first, just keeping an open mind and putting people first than the process and the customer as well. Letting that drive your improvements. Abandoning your own notions of what should happen. Letting the data speak and just going at it humbly when you’re working with the different departments or whoever you are working with is critical.

Abandoning your own notions of what should happen. Letting the data speak and just going at it humbly when you’re working with the different departments or whoever you are working with is critical.

Lean is transitioning to higher education and that’s making an impact, which is great. But with that, I mentioned how some people have preconceived notions about Lean Six Sigma so just being prepared for that and putting people first and listening to them I think really helps open some of those doors.

Tracy O’Rourke: Well, you can definitely hear your perspective in this presentation about the gratefulness and humbleness of your team and the appreciation that you’ve shown them. I could really hear it in even your presentation and being respectful of people. So that’s wonderful.

I just want to thank you so much, Kristin, for sharing your project success story. I think it’s going to inspire a lot of people across the globe to hear how you really made a difference in a process that’s almost universal, bringing new employees on. So I really appreciate it.

Getting Started

I’m Tracy O’Rourke. You’re listening to another success story with GoLeanSixSigma.com. And thank you, Kristin, so much for sharing your project with our listeners. And I just want to also say that if you have a success story that you want to share, just give us a call or send us an email at [email protected]

Kristin Kielich: Thank you. It was an honor to be a part of this.

Thank You for Joining Us!

Tracy O’Rourke: Thank you. And I just also like to remind people that we’ve got lots of free tools, and templates and infographics on our website because really, we’re just trying to build the problem-solving muscles, making it easy for everyone everywhere to build their problem-solving muscle.

And so again, thank you Kristin so much for joining us today. And we’ll see you next time.

Kristin Kielich: Thank you, Tracy.

Tracy O’Rourke: Thanks, Kristin.

Kristin Kielich: Bye.



Get the inside scoop on many other successful Lean Six Sigma projects at our Super Stories of Success page. Do you have a story to tell? We’d love to hear about your own project success! Please contact us.

Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Managing Partner at GoLeanSixSigma.com. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at UC San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.