Employee involvement is defined as ‘the act or instance of participation and sharing an experience by employees.’ Recent research by Branham and Hirschfeld has shown that one of the top 10 differentiators between winning and non-winning organizations was that contributions of employees to the organization’s success were always recognized at the winning organizations. Interestingly enough, this recognition not only manifested in monetary terms but also in the feelings of employees that they were taken seriously by management. For instance because managers not only listened to their ideas but also allowed employees to move forward with their ideas and put them into action, and a deliberate effort of management to include employees in every quality initiative undertaken in the organization. It turned out that greater commitment is created among employees when they are allowed to participate and have their say, and can feel co-owner of the decisions and actions that are taken. There are, however, some conditions which need to be met in order to create effective employee involvement:
- participation doesn’t mean that everybody is entitled to participate in everything at the same level (being informed, join in the conversation, think along, take part in deciding, take part in executing);
- people participating must have enough knowledge to be able to usefully participate;
- the participants must be aware that they are participating for the greater good of the organization, not to serve the interests of their own departments; and
- participants must be able to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity, as there is no guarantee that their involvement will always influence the course of the process in the way they would want to.
In the process to make sure we have good and safe flights nobody can work from his own ivory tower without interaction with others, it is crucial to work together. And that means openness and involving everybody, which is therefore in our genes. Also when there are developments we take great care to personally talk with our people at their workplace. So if we need to talk to the cargo loaders we will organize several meetings in the warehouses, one during every shift. When board members fly on one of our planes, they will take the time during the flight to talk to the crew. In other words, management is visible and the nice side-effect is that it creates trust. This openness makes taking action also easy: everybody knows why we are doing certain things and why we are doing them in a certain way. So we can be very action oriented and solve problems quickly.
Six ideas to get started with employee involvement
You can use these ideas to improve the effective of employee involvement:
- Involve employees always in activities that influence their work.
- Make clear that being involved does not mean the employees have a veto; it is a means to exert influence.
- Make sure you are prepared for the employee involvement: it has to be clear who should be involved in which processes when and in what way and what is expected.
- Employee involvement and participation should be seen as part of the regular job.
- Make clear that someone is not only involved for the personal benefit but also for the benefit of others, by sharing experiences during the involvement.
- Make sure there is enough training, guidance and coaching to make the involvement as effective as possible.
One of the rules we uphold is consent: everybody should – in principle – agree with a decision by not having any substantial doubts. If even only one person objects because he really has substantial doubts, no matter what his function is in the organisation, we take this seriously and discuss in-depth what the issue is because that person might have found something which causes a solution to be not the best for the customer. Hierarchy just does not fit in with this way of operating.
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