The basics for an effective employee involvement program

Managing

December 09, 1991|By Gerald Graham | Gerald Graham,Knight-Ridder

"Just what does employee involvement mean, in a practical sense?" asked a manager.

"Basically, it means allowing employees to have input into decision-making," I responded.

"We try to do that," countered the manager, "but it takes too long and people get frustrated."

While many reports sing the praises of employee involvement, it seems that a lot of managers are frustrated. Effective involvement programs, in my opinion, require as a minimum, the following:

TRAINING: It is unrealistic to ask employees and managers to share decision-making without training in such things as participation, listening, coaching, team-building, how to conduct meetings, alternatives for gaining input and the like.

RECRUITING: Some people are narrowly task-centered. That is, they want to concentrate on doing the job in the way they are taught. "Why do we waste so much time talking about this?" is a common expression of a task-centered individual.

Other employees are more comfortable with the demands of participation. It is far easier to hire individuals who are comfortable with involvement than it is to train those who are not.

TIME: It does take more time to arrive at decisions when more people participate in the decision.

However, effective involvement improves quality and increases employee satisfaction. Unless these benefits offset the additional cost of involvement, employee participation is impractical.

PURPOSE: The intent of employee involvement is, first, to get better decisions! Fortunately, employee satisfaction and FTC commitment to implementation are important side effects. Managers who involve employees primarily to lower resistance to a decision will likely be disappointed.

REALISM: Managers and employees should approach involvement realistically. It is not practical, or even possible, to get input on all decisions, to get everyone to agree with every major decision or to make decisions by voting.

"Having a say," as one manager put it, "does not necessarily mean having your way."

Involving employees

Indicate whether you agree or disagree with each of the following, giving 3 points for "agree," 2 for "unsure," and 1 for "disagree":

In my department,

1. Employees have been trained in participative methods.

2. We have consciously recruited employees who value participation.

3. We believe time invested in participation is well worth it.

4. The major purpose of participation is to get a better decision.

5. Individuals understand that they will not always get their way.

6. Managers are skilled in coaching techniques.

7. Information is freely shared with employees.

8. Teamwork is valued.

9. People feel free to disagree.

10. There is strong commitment to departmental goals.

Interpretation. A score of 25 points or higher suggests that you have prepared your department for employee involvement.

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