You may have noticed your staff huddled around the water cooler or suddenly going quiet when management is walking around. It often is a signal of frustration with the current working environment. Whether the complaint is duties, structure of workflow or a gap in the process, those same frustrated employees can be the key to getting things back on track.
Successful organizations know that their personnel are the best source when it comes to innovations and improvements in workflow.
One way to change the culture at your organization is to work with a third party to open the communication lines. When consulting with clients, I’ve discovered that many times when there is a struggle through transition or periods of rapid growth, the lines of communication between employees and management has become strained.
Employees that can relax and speak candidly about workflow often reveal the hiccups in the process that can be easily fixed, and often at little to no expense. Duplicated efforts or gaps can easily be streamlined with employee input. Staff who know they are listened to tend to be more productive. Another benefit to management is a higher retention rate.
Bringing in a consultant to audit and interview employees is a non-threatening way to reestablish the lines of communication. As the process is improved, employees will feel more comfortable offering ways to improve workflow as new situations arise.
Employees are your most valuable asset – their front line experience means you don’t have to look far for workflow improvement. When a worker knows that their employer wants them to succeed, they are more willing to offer potential solutions. Leverage the knowledge of the team to arrive at the best decision for the organization.
As part of management, it is important to reinforce the comfort level by listening to suggestions and thanking employees for their input regardless if you plan to implement the changes. The first few times may be a bit awkward or uncomfortable, but keep the lines open and continue to seek input.
Some good questions to start the process are:
What step could be eliminated to make this process smoother?
What step should be added to make this process quicker or more efficient?
Is there someone else doing a similar task related to yours?
Where do you see the process slow or stop in the workflow?
Open ended questions encourage the employee to offer more details. You may have several employees doing the same tasks, and asking each one independently can give you several perspectives. Asking the same questions in a group setting allows them to brainstorm new ideas.
For higher retention rates, improved employee morale and productivity, conversation and consideration of their ideas pays high returns. If you find the workflow has stalled or can’t keep up with growth, turn first to those on the front lines and ask away.
If you prefer using a third party to engage your employees in this conversation, look for a consultant that will observe and interview personnel in a non-judgmental manner. This same consultant should be able to provide solutions based on the observations and work with you to strategize workflow improvement and employee engagement.