Friday October 17, 2014
Quality Guru Phil Crosby got famous off his first best-selling book, “Quality is Free.” His premise was really pretty simple – organizations spend a lot of time and money doing things wrong; prevent errors and defects from the start and you have quality. To do that, you have to engage employees, educate everyone on a common understanding, change the culture, listen for the “hassles” as he called them, and fix those “hassles.” When you do, quality improves, finances improve, and morale goes up.
As his HR Manager in the publicly-traded company that bore his name, I had to learn to do HR the way he did quality. It works. I joke that I didn’t learn HR from an HR person; I learned from a Quality Guru. The best by the way. Since then I’ve found that not only is quality free, so is morale, expense reduction, sales… almost any operational issue facing any organization. Funny thing – people like to be included. It enlists, engages, empowers, and envisions.
There are some “hassles” that exist today, largely because of a case involving a company called Electromation back in the 90s. They didn’t have a union, but got charged by the National Labor Relations Board with an Unfair Labor Practice because they were using employee groups interacting with management to help improve things for employees. That was deemed an employer-dominated union. I guess the thought was that if companies tried to solve things with employees directly that a union would have no opportunity to get in. Sad.
Out of that case came safe harbors for those companies that want to include employees in decisions that impact their work. So now a company can:
- Delegate the entire decision to an employee group with no management override (giving new meaning to the term, “shared governance”);
- Conduct focus groups where the company solicits input from employees but not recommendations or negotiations; or
- Use a third party as a facilitator between an employee group and management, allowing no negotiation, no back and forth dialogue, keeping it all arms-length. After all, you wouldn’t want management actually trying to interact with employees, listen, and solve their concerns. Wish I was kidding.
There are ways to structure employee involvement, and you should. Whether it’s as simple as MBWA (Management by Walking Around) or doing “Town Hall” meetings, people spend too much time at work not to have a voice. And in that voice, businesses can find some of the best solutions that leaders may not be able to see. This is such a win-win. Organizations have the ability to gain improvements that would not be possible without the involvement of those “in the trenches.” People get the benefit of being in on things – one of the top job reward factors.
You know the old workplace joke, “I feel like a mushroom; they keep me in the dark and feed me_____” (use your imagination). You really don’t want mushrooms in your workplace – they are a sign of decay. If instead, you want life - enlist, envision, engage, and empower your people. It’s free, but the results can be incredible.