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14 December 2015
Employee Motivation

CAN ANYBODY HEAR US? Giving Your Staff A Voice

Point 6 in the series My 7 Point Plan to Perfecting Business Performance

How often do you have a problem that lands on your desk, and you feel you have to come up with the solution? Do you ever wonder where your next inspirational idea is going to come from or how you’re going to get your employees performing better? Have you ever thought of asking them?

Some of the most inspirational and innovative ideas that have produced significant profit improvements in the organisations I’ve consulted to around the globe, came from the front line workers and managers. Why? Because we asked them. Businesses need to open up conduits for giving employees a voice in how things can improve, as you never know where the next bright idea could be lurking.

The European Company Survey* of over 30,000 businesses suggested that those who scored high in performance and wellbeing, displayed the important characteristic of having extensive practices for direct employee participation, supporting the notion that ‘win-win’ arrangements need to include measures to enable optimal use of employees tacit knowledge.

Organisations that fell into the “Interactive & Involving” category showed a combination of workplace practices, including joint decision-making on daily tasks and direct participation by employees. It was found that in 40% of business employees make decisions jointly with managers, but only by themselves in 6% of cases. Are we stifling the knowledge and potential we have in our workforce?


The Welding Line

The Employee Voice can make a big difference to the bottom line. In my e-book, “20 Ways to be More Productive” I highlight the benefit of working and consulting with the employees in one case study of The Welding Line.

Whilst consulting in the USA to a small robotic welding plant producing truck cabins, the main causes of low output were poor quality welding, dings and dents in the body work as the cabs came off the end of the line. The line ran at a speed of 6 minutes per cycle, with a dozen work stations each having to weld different sections of the cab on the line and, if this didn’t require the full 6 minutes, turn to back up tasks behind the line.

Some workstations, however, were hard pushed to get all their work done during the six minutes – hence the resulting rejections, whilst others only had 2-3 minutes of welding to do and would then be left waiting for the next cycle. This normally resulted in 32 – 34 cabs finally passing QC inspection by the end of the day, with many cabs having to be recycled back through the process with the consequent material wastage and rework costs.

The Operations Manager worked tirelessly to find solutions to improve their output, as it was hugely affecting their profit margins. After much observation, and consultation with the welders themselves, he had a real light bulb, out of the box, moment. Popular belief in improving productivity is generally to speed things up – do things more quickly. By talking with the line crew, however, it became obvious that the solution was to SLOW the line down – almost double – to 11 minutes.

The benefits of this allowed the operators’ workload at each station to be more evenly distributed, and each task being allocated more time to complete the work to a higher quality. With much analysis and calculation, and carefully implementing the re-designed workflows, the outcome was an average of 54 cabs (56% more) passing the quality inspections daily.

The company profited to the tune of more than £500,000 annually as a direct result of giving the employees the chance to voice their opinions, and show their knowledge.


The Moral of the Story

I could wax lyrically through many more cases, where giving employees the opportunity to be involved in the business decisions and problems has bourne fruit. The moral of the story is much quicker though.

As a leader or manager in your business you need to place as much emphasis on LISTENING as talking. Strong leaders will seek views, take into account what they hear from their staff, and communicate regularly about employees’ contribution in the workplace and driving the organization forward.

Communicating with employees and allowing them to have their say is advantageous, especially during times of change. It can help to ensure that innovative approaches are not overlooked, and can also help maintain good work place relationships, during and after the change process.

At the end of the day, if you were given the opportunity to shape your own working environment you’d be much more likely to buy into it wouldn’t you. It’s the same with your employees – if they’ve had a hand in designing it, it’s much harder for them to wriggle out of, or reject the change.

They will take more pride in their work knowing they’ve been listened to and their ideas incorporated. Then you just have to share with them in the success it brings to your business.


Next Time …….

Point 7 of The 7 Point Plan to Perfecting Business Performance

All I want for Christmas is TRUST? A natural progression from giving your employees a voice, and directly linked to employee engagement, is the prized commodity of Trust. Without trust, it’s difficult to resolve conflicts, build a team, and empower your workforce. Just in time for Christmas, the final blog in this series of perfecting business performance, will bring you some insight as to how to embed high trust levels throughout your organisation.


For further reading about some of the references in my blog, and to help you and your Managers, I can thoroughly recommend the following:

*Third European Company Survey 2015 – Workplace practices: Patterns, performance & wellbeing.


Alluxi is here to offer you support through these times of change, bringing a facts and figures approach to evolve your business and realise your goals.

As a first step towards identifying your current business challenges and evaluating where your future opportunities exist within your business, we invite you to complete the in-depth Alluxi Business Success Scorecard delving into the 10 key critical success areas.

Take 15 minutes to respond to the scorecard and get your results within minutes.  You’ll have the opportunity to book a follow-up Productivity to Profit Breakthrough Session to find out how you can implement rapid and measurable improvements.