Accumold Starts With the Why

Human capital VP explains importance of ISO 10018 for quality management

Bruce Bolger

April 19, 2018

Grace Swanson, vice president of human capital at Accumold, a leading micro-molding plastics injection company located just outside Des Moines, Iowa, knows the field of standards well. Her company has certifications in ISO 9001 for quality management, ISO 14001 for environmental management, and ISO 13485 for medical devices. She believes that ISO 10018 for quaity management of people involvement and competence, could have a significant effect on quality management, as well as on implementating other ISO standards.

“One reason the quality standard hasn’t had the level of success it should have is that it didn’t focus on people,” says Swanson. “You think quality managing quality is not a challenge? Applying a systematic approach to managing people will be an equal challenge, but I learned the importance of people years ago at another company, when we implemented just-in-time manufacturing. I was the production control manager, and my focus was on people development. We went from making a circuit board in 12 weeks to 2 1/2 hours, and that was on day two of the pilot. People in the organization went from not wanting to be picked for the pilot to wanting to be picked next. The more people got to work together to build a system, the more the quality improved, and the more valuable the people became to the organization. People starting on the production floor on the third shift had become leaders. You can imagine their pride.”

That, she explains, “is what convinced me of the role engagement plays. People had control over how we built the product. We had an industrial engineer who wanted to decide the sequence of assembly, when the operators were telling her it had to be done in a different sequence. At the time, the engineer asked me, ‘If the operators dictate how we assemble, what will my job be?’ That’s how people feel. Some don’t want to give up control to others, but people on the line knew how to do it, and we had plenty of other work for that engineer to do. We make a very complex product, so it’s important to treat our team as the asset that they are.”

Swanson explains that she and her team learned about ISO 10018 in the webinar, “ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 10018: Developing People Engagement in a QMS,” and by subsequently purchasing my book, Enterprise Engagement: The Roadmap (Engagement Enterprises, 2018). Her company is proceeding with implementing the Enterprise Engagement Benchmark study to determine the most practical next steps. She also will be attending the ISO 10018 training program in Galveston, Texas, at Engagement World to learn more about the process first-hand and determine if the company wants to formally move forward to obtain ISO 10018 certification. “In the end, that will be based on how much we believe that displaying the ISO 10018 logo will help inspire pride in our employees and respect from our customers,” says Swanson. “Either way, we know we can benefit from applying a more systematic approach to how we engage people than ISO 10018 can provide.”

Swanson believes engagement is critical to organizational success, and that it starts in school. She believes that the U.S. educational system so systematically disengages students that organizations must start all over again. “One fundamental reason why students disengage—and it’s the same problem in the workplace—is that schools and teachers, as well as many companies and front-line supervisors, do little to address the why.” Referring to Simon Sinek’s book, Start With the Why (Portfolio, 2011 reprint) she says that “knowing the why and how to do what you need to do is what the game is all about.”

While she says she has just begun to benchmark Accumold’s organizational engagement practices, she observes, “I think that we’re doing lots of things right. One of the issues is understanding the difference between drivers and consequence. Quality is a consequence. You are either going to build a quality part because of people, products, and process, or it’s not a quality part. Engagement is what’s going to get you the consequence of loyalty, quality, and innovation.”

“Our president doesn’t accept silos,” says Swanson, and cites that as one advantage at Accumold. “If we have a problem, we’re getting the right people in the room to work on it together. Human Resources owns training, safety, business continuity, recruiting and process improvement. We’re touching inside and outside the organization. We’re involved in customer meetings. We have to know what’s going on in the business to find the right people to grow the business.”

“Engagement is like preventive maintenance to stop both customers and employees from walking out the door.”
—Grace Swanson, vice president of human capital at Accumold

ISO 10018 certification holds significant promise, Swanson believes. “I think companies lost the critical part about quality management,” she says. “Yes, you need the systems, the road maps, the critical process, but it’s people who are driving these processes. With ISO 10018, you have the potential to break down walls and enable people to embrace and honor their true value to the organization. Engagement is like preventive maintenance to stop both customers and employees from walking out the door. Our customers keep coming back because they feel they’re getting a team that is more worried about the project than they are.”

Based on those ideas, Swanson will continue to move her team forward. “IS0 10018 can have traction, especially since right now we’re in a manufacturing renaissance where companies are bringing back manufacturing to the U.S., and companies like ours are recruiting millennials, who are going to challenge us. Engagement is going to be pushed from the new employees, as well as customers. It’s all about timing; we have to get better at eliminating rework and creating value with each thing we do for our employees and customers, and ISO 10018 can help us get there.”

To learn more about ISO 10018 and certification:

1. Register to attend the ISO 10018 Enterprise Engagement in Action conference at Engagement World, May 7–8, 2018, in Galveston, Texas.

2. Sign up for membership in the Enterprise Engagement Alliance to access the learning platform for becoming a certified engagement practitioner and advanced engagement practitioner, which prepares professionals to help implement ISO 10018 quality people management practices.

3. Purchase Enterprise Engagement: The Roadmap, which has been updated to include complete information on ISO 10018.

About The Author

Bruce Bolger’s picture

Bruce Bolger

Bruce Bolger is founder of the Enterprise Engagement Alliance and co-founder of the International Center for Enterprise Engagement ISO 10018 certification program