In a previous blog, we focused on what building an engaged workforce can do in terms of business benefits. While many businesses understand the benefits of improving employee engagement, not many understand how to translate it to Employee Involvement.
This time, Director Stuart Pearce focuses on the reasons why this process needs to be at the heart of your People Engagement Programme, so that everyone has a clear and shared sense of purpose in the business.
Business leaders may think they know everything about the workings of the business or market, but they may lack knowledge in some areas. Or, your business might be getting stale from a lack of fresh ideas.
Involving staff in decision making can make your business stronger. Your employees can supply you with new ideas that you would have never thought of.
How do you make a start?
There’s no real mystery or science to the idea of Employee Involvement. We know it means involving employees, at all levels, in understanding and discussing where the business is at. Also, where it wants to be in the future and how it plans to get there.
When considering an Employee Involvement programme, the following principles are key:
- Keep it simple and avoid business speak wherever possible
- Ask employee’s what they think, rather than telling them what the leaders want to hear
- Create an environment for an effective two-way discussion, not a one-way presentation
- Be open to (any) feedback and challenge
- Accept that no idea is a bad idea and encourage employees to make suggestions
- Give feedback on what you have learnt from the exercise and plan to do as a result
- Make sure there are ongoing opportunities for employees to be involved
We all want a clear sense of direction and purpose. We want to understand what is expected of us and what we are empowered to do. We want to be given the support to improve and develop.
Equally, and critically, we don’t want to just be told this. We want to be engaged in discussions that help us to understand this and why things are as they are.
The Role of the Leader
Leaders must understand the value of Employee Involvement and how best to go about it. Crucially, they must go into it with the right attitude. If they approach it as a tick-box exercise, they will be found out and won’t get much out of the process. In fact, they are more likely to breed resistance and contempt.
However, if leaders are brave enough to open themselves up to question and suggestion, they will achieve more than they might think.
Involved employees who feel like they have had the opportunity to contribute, will automatically become engaged and feel they have some ownership. This generates a sense of pride in the initiative, so any discretionary effort needed to make it a success will be given.
What are the benefits of Employee Involvement?
There is plenty of evidence that morale is higher among employees who are involved in decision-making. People can see that they can make a difference. They feel involved, see how they contribute to the goals of the organisation and feel empowered to influence their workplace. This leads to increased engagement and satisfaction with their job and the company as a whole.
Employees who are involved in decision-making feel a personal stake in the organisation and in its success. This leads to more productive workers, as they want to contribute more – especially when combined with higher morale and job satisfaction.
3. Ownership of decisions
If someone has taken part in a decision, they are more committed to its success, so are more likely to work hard in support of that decision. Even when things go wrong, those who have been involved in making the decision are likely to work hard to put things right. They feel they have a personal stake in it.
Those who haven’t been involved can develop a pessimistic “this is never going to work” attitude from the start, and blame management when things go wrong.
Involved Employees feel their contribution is valued. The process of sharing opinions and discussing work matters can foster teamwork and improve relationships between workers.
5. Useful resource
Your staff can be an invaluable source of knowledge and expertise. They understand the company well, and the processes and realities of the work you do. The viewpoints and opinions of those on the ground can be incredibly useful in making effective decisions about your business.
They may be able to identify factors you wouldn’t otherwise have considered. They can predict possible issues which may arise, helping address concerns early on. This improves the chances of success for decisions the company may make.
Trust your employees to Know
When you let employees help with decisions, it shows that you trust them. Even if you only let employees give input to assist you in making the final decision, you still show that you value their opinions.
Employees often work more closely with customers. They know what buyers need and request. Employees can also come up with revenue-generating and cost-saving ideas. They can see the efficiencies that can be made in often niche and overlooked areas of a business process.
Employee Involvement: A How to Guide
Involvement programmes can take a number of forms:
a) Suggestion Box
This could be physical or digital – but must be checked routinely, perhaps as part of a QA or business analyst/project office function within the business. It’s important that you are seen to respond to these suggestions.
If it’s not the right time for it – tell them why and thank them.
Be careful about rejecting all employee ideas. If employees notice that you never act on them, they may stop submitting them and fester lower morale.
b) Employee Surveys
Regular surveys can help you learn about employees’ opinions, ideas, and level of satisfaction. Once you receive the feedback, use the results to take steps to improve your business. Look for common complaints and ideas.
Demonstrate change by implementing workshops to discuss ideas and themes in more detail. Then, set project work streams in place off the back of workable ideas that generate business efficiency and growth.
c) Project Teams
Specific teams could be established to implement these project work streams. These don’t have to be populated by managers and will be more representative if they don’t dominate.
Involvement: A Business Culture
Regular communication and reporting needs to be added into management meetings to ensure progress and ideas are captured and monitored. Team members should feel confident to give ideas and report upwards. It then becomes more integral to the business culture at all levels.
The ultimate challenge, and the key to developing an engaged workforce, is to ensure that Employee Involvement becomes part of the organisational culture. It is ‘the way things are done around here’ rather than a one-off initiative.
Involving employees in all business matters – not just major change initiatives – will build its own momentum and lasting impact.
For those leaders who fear the time this may take, it will deliver returns in improved productivity, service delivery and customer satisfaction that drive significant top and bottom-line benefits.
For anyone still to be convinced, I recommend having a look at the ‘Engage for Success’ website: http://www.engageforsuccess.org/
In our experience, whilst the leaders of some organisations set out with good intentions, they find it hard to fully involve employees given the time pressures to deliver quick results.
This is where Journey4 comes in. We have the skills and experience to find the balance between the need to maintaining business as usual with generating employee buy-in and ownership. This ensures improvements made are sustained.