About a year ago I consulted with a company where no one had any idea if they were coming or going. Communication was at the lowest end of the scale both among lower-level employees and executives. The only time some version of what’s called “training” would take place is when and employee gives a notice of resignation, which sparks a sense of urgency to train someone on taking their place. With extremely high employee turnover and the worst product and service on the market, saying that the company was in turmoil is an understatement. Why? Instead of attacking the core of their challenges and realign priorities and human capital resources to meet those challenges; managers were more concerned with allocating exaggerated amount of funds into non-strategic business functions, yielding no results.
The first step in demonstrating to employees how their work fits in any business is information sharing. One of the most important measures of job satisfaction is whether employees find true meaning in their work, know what they are working toward and understand how their work affect the organization as a whole; including other employees. Surprisingly, few only few organizations understand the value of sharing information with other organizational members. Human Resources Professionals along with organizational leaders need to ensure employees are not left clueless.
Employees tend to resist any form of training, development, or empowerment program when they don’t understand why and what they are working toward. Similar to that of the organization, employees need strategic goals, and understand the impact their work has on meeting those goals. Doing so enables the kind of buy-in necessary to generate dramatic and ongoing success in the business. Take the employees in the above case. These people had spent their career working in the dark. They had no guidance on organizational goals, knew nothing about sales, or what it cost to produce or replace a defective product. An essential part of the intervention was in helping employees understand their job functions, and share information about the company’s cost figures, competition, and initiatives in a way employees can understand how their work fit into the big picture. Not accustomed to this kind of engagement, employees were skeptical at first, and later came around. In actuality, everybody wants to feel their work serve some form of purpose. When individuals understand the value they bring to an organization, they are eager to continue doing more, increase productivity, and grow with the organization.
Those who do a job everyday are the best to advice on its improvement, work teams therefore should be regarded as the board of directors of their business segments. Similar to any board, employees need information in order to make decisions on how to improve their work. Employee development is an important factor in the process. Significant changes in any given process are achieved by changing the way things are done. Doing so requires showing employees how to do things differently through ongoing development. This kind of development is less about management but more about coaching and enabling an environment open to new ways of doing things. Often much easier said than done – For this process to be effective, managers have to give up control. A less authoritarian, but yet supportive style have to be adopted. This includes nurturing and rewarding good ideas, along with assigning appropriate challenges.
Managers must also accept the fact that even with proper training and communication, not all employees want to be empowered. Many people work better in jobs that are closely supervised and clearly defined. Those who do not agree with the changes will feel uncomfortable and eventually leave on their own terms. Remaining employees and new hires, however will be armed with the necessary information, a clear sense of direction, and resources to move the company forward. Measurement, feedback, and positive reinforcement cannot be ignored. Once employees are finally engaged enough to share information with management, their only incentive for continuing to do so is knowing how their ideas are contributing to the bottom line. After all, there is really no incentive in continuing to seek improvement, when they don’t know how their prior suggestions are helping. By sharing information, allocating the proper resources, training and development, together with ongoing positive reinforcement, organizations can start achieving unrivalled results.
By Sophia Sanchez, PhD(c), SPHRFounder and Principal Consultant Develop For Results International Author of “The Development Alternative: Powerful Strategies for unparalleled Business Results” DevelopForResults.com