By Sarah Howland, Editor In Chief, Integrated Solutions magazine
I read an interesting article on businessweek.com this week titled Workers of the World, Innovate, which described how, when Pitney Bowes was recently challenged with finding a way to improve how it fields customer inquiries, the company put the onus on its employees. Essentially, leaders at Pitney Bowes feel it isn’t productive to put the burdens of problem solving and decision making solely on management — but rather, to hold frontline employees accountable for contributing and sharing the load. And, in doing so, you might be surprised at the knowledge you’ll find. As the CEO of Pitney Bowes points out in the article, “It goes far beyond management deciding to change and to innovate, and there are so many good ideas that could be acted on that are with the people who are right there every day, dealing with customers.”
The Insight Your Employees Can Provide Might Surprise You
While reading this article, I began thinking about how this concept relates to a number of issues we cover regularly — choosing the right technology for your organization, finding ways to increase productivity and reduce costs, maximizing the experience of your customers. And, it made me wonder — are you getting all you can out of your employees? Sure, I’d imagine you’re doing whatever it takes to make sure they’re using their time efficiently and completing their daily duties correctly. But, are you getting their input when you’re making decisions and solving problems? It makes sense — while you might be responsible for the direction of the company, your employees are the ones who are dealing with the issues firsthand. In seeking input from workers closest to the problem, challenge, or decision, you might uncover data you wouldn’t have otherwise or even come up with an idea you wouldn’t have thought of yourself. And, by sharing the burden with the employees, you reduce the weight you carry on your shoulders.
If you aren’t already doing so, you should test this concept at your company. The next time you have a problem to solve or a decision to make, gather some feedback from your employees. Ask them what they think and what they would do if your business were their business. At best, you’re going to uncover some fresh, new perspectives that might help you land on an outcome you wouldn’t have otherwise. At worst, you’re going to give your employees the impression you really value their input — not a bad worst-case scenario at all.