Structure Please; Continuous Improvement and Employee Consequences in a Dynamic Task Environment
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Whilst continuous improvement (CI) programs have had an enduring appeal for several decades, their sustainability has been a concern for almost as long. Sustaining a CI program requires permanent support of all its stakeholders, particularly of the most important ones—employees. Some authors argue that continuous improvement programs are beneficial for employee wellbeing, while others contest this. We contribute to the small empirical basis for such claims by presenting results from research among care workers in Flemish nursing homes. Questionnaires from 553 care workers in a nursing home applying continuous improvement and in a reference group of nine comparable homes were analyzed to study differences in job demands, job resources, burnout risk, and work engagement. In addition, we have drawn on interviews, site visits, and other qualitative data to assess the extent to which the differences found may be attributed to the CI program used. Overall, the care workers in the nursing home with the CI program evaluated their jobs as better than their colleagues in the reference group. These differences are at least partly caused by the continuous improvement program. We argue that the main effect is that over time, daily work processes become more structured. The work pressure decreases as work becomes less hectic.