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MAXIMIZING YOUR EMPLOYEES' CONTRIBUTIONS
By Rich Knauss, Leadership Advancement Resources, Inc.

A continuing challenge for every business executive is how to better engage employees in the business of our business. As successful leaders, we achieve results through and with others. But as companies grow, the importance of people and the issues surrounding people also grows. We hear story after story of company situations where employees participate and are part of a company’s success, as well as stories of employee discontent.

Have you ever gone to a weeklong team-building activity with people you did not know? It is amazing the connection you build in that week. You leave thinking that your newfound "team" could become successful at anything it collectively sets it mind to. What if you had that kind of feeling within your company? Everyone is focused, the mission is clear, communication flows in all directions, and peer pressure facilitates 100 percent participation. Well, it is possible.

Customers stay loyal to products and services because of their "value-added" qualities, which translate to service plus other "stuff." Employees are the same. They are interested in the value-added. In most cases that means they want to be part of the team; they want to feel they contribute and make a difference.

So how do we involve people in the business? The easy answer is, we communicate. We communicate consistently what the company stands for, how our customers are to be viewed and how the employees are to be viewed. It is the company mission statement. But beyond that, it is the programs we put into place and our actions that keep people continually involved with the business.

It begins with training — training that is designed not only to help the employee become proficient at his job, but to place that job within the context of the company mission. What are the employee’s responsibilities, and how does that activity contribute to the success of the company? This training provides the "big picture." The more information a company provides, the more involved the employee feels. It is continual training, formal training, informal training and cross training, as well as informational meetings.

Parts of this training can be facilitated through team participation. The team can be a work group with a defined deliverable. It can be a team formed to make recommendations or to provide resolutions to problems. Giving a group clear responsibility and ownership for work activities, if properly facilitated, can be a significant motivator for that team’s individual members. It trains and involves the employee in the business in a way that focuses on results.

Cross training, short-term individual assignments and company-wide informational meetings help provide a broader company view. An article in Inc Magazine discusses how a modular furniture manufacturer uses its offices as a showroom. Over time, all of the employees are involved with customer tours. They become part of the company’s sales activities and gain an understanding of customers’ needs. They also learn how their individual and combined participation contributes to the company’s success.

Facilitating employee participation is key. The more we can involve employees in the business, the more rewarding and valuable is their contribution to both the business and to themselves.

(Rich Knauss is President of Leadership Advancement Resources, Inc. A former business owner, Knauss has been consulting directly with business owners and CEOs in Orange County for the past 5 years. Knauss focuses on the business owner, helping facilitate and balance both business and personal growth. He can be reached directly at (714) 241-0655 or email rknauss@earthlink.net)




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