Empowered Employees Part 3

October 3, 2005

By: John Zink

Your employees have great ideas about how improve productivity and reduce costs in your company. Are you asking for these ideas and listening when they are offered?

One company owner in the construction industry recognized the importance of employee feedback and struggled to find the best method for collecting this information. This member began to recognize the problems with office suggestion boxes and open door policies and decided to take a more active approach.

We have the benefit of learning from his mistakes and not repeating them.

The contractor moved suggestion boxes from the office to outside the trailer on each jobsite. After collecting gum wrappers and other trash for a month, the suggestion box was removed.

The owner decided to take the suggestion process to the employees. A sheet of paper asking for feedback was included in each employee’s paycheck, with instructions on how to submit the form back. The owner found that nobody paid attention to anything in the payment envelop except their check—the rest ended up in the trash immediately.

After two failed attempts, the increasingly agitated owner directed his foremen to collect suggestions and feedback from the field crews. The foremen passed out suggestion forms with the understanding that everyone had to write something and that the foreman would collect the forms later to turn in to the office. The foremen did their job and followed the instructions.

The owner found that the overwhelming majority of the field crews said on their suggestion forms that everything was running fine and that there were no problems at all.

After a few conversations with foremen, the owner realized that the feedback he had received from this technique was next to worthless. The crews knew that their supervisor would be collecting their forms. They knew that if they wrote anything negative, it would reflect poorly on their supervisor’s performance as manager of the job site.

To protect themselves from retribution from their supervisor, they wrote exactly what they thought the foreman would want the people in the office to hear.

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