I’ve been asked to head up an employee involvement initiative within our company, but where should I


This is a huge topic and you need to establish what is expected of you. Putting in place a new system of involving employees in their work will require a range of knowledge and skills, including an understanding of psychology for individuals and groups. The more traditional problem solving and project management skills will also be needed. Presumably whoever has asked you to lead this project has seen something in how you operate that they valued. Apart from hard skills you must have shown softer people skills including empathy and coaching. As with anything, the key to success is in understanding the current situation and putting together a plan to deliver the organisation’s objectives.

It may seem obvious but if you have been asked to look at improving employee involvement then there must be a perceived problem with how staff currently work and you need to understand the reasons for this. Typical reasons are more to do with the working environment than individual people’s attitudes. Many managers still believe they motivate staff, but this is a fallacy – the best you can do is create an environment where individuals find their own motivation. One example is money. Many people believe this is a motivator, despite evidence of people who are dedicated and doing a good job while working alongside others who are paid the same, but do significantly less. Your first task is to identify the demotivators – those things that are stopping people doing a good job. Typical areas include poor communication, poor structures and processes that hinder getting work done. It is generally a fairly long list with micromanagement and a lack of ownership as the most visible symptoms. If you get as far as putting in place systems that encourage involvement you won’t be disappointed for ideas. People working within their organization generally want it to succeed – both for continued employment and to tell their friends and family. Whatever you come up with you have to sell your idea carefully. Dealing with people is the most difficult part of a manager’s job and the rewards of employee involvement are some of the least certain. To have a manager believe there will be significant improvement through giving employees more say in their work may go against their experience and possibly against their tendency to command and control. But if you are able to release some of this human potential, the rewards in terms of quality and productivity are tremendous.


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