Finding effective ways to engage your employees in decision-making processes has become a priority for most organizations in recent years.
Because numerous research studies clearly indicate that involving your employees in how things get done improves morale, which in turn positively impacts productivity, loyalty, and pretty much everything else that enables a business to grow and stay competitive.
Really it’s just common sense. Treat your employees well, give them opportunities to contribute, and they will be more motivated to consistently produce their best work.
According to Salesforce research, employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work, while another study indicates that organizations with high employee engagement outperform those with low employee engagement by 202%.
It’s hard not to perk up your ears and think carefully about how much you involve your employees when such significant numbers are flying around.
In this post, I’m going to be going through 5 ways for you to involve your employees in decision-making when it comes to process design.
In other words, I’ll be looking to offer you some practical, tried and tested ideas for encouraging your employees to contribute to the design of internal business processes. This will not only offer them a channel for empowerment, but will also improve process adoption as they will be built through collaboration and teamwork. It’s a win-win situation.
What exactly do I mean by process design?
Process design is the act of creating a new process or workflow from scratch. In brief, this means thinking logically about all of the steps involved in a process along with the resources required to ensure its completion, and documenting this information in a way which makes the process actionable and repeatable.
For the sake of this post, however, this term also applies to process re-design which refers to an existing process that is being iterated and refined.
I’ve chosen to consolidate the two because it extends the scope of this post and more importantly, makes it more useful as the majority of your processes are likely to already be built to some degree.
Furthermore, employee involvement has a greater value when a process has been used for some time and can, therefore, be evaluated in more detail.
Only when a process is being iterated can you ask pertinent questions like:
- What part(s) of the process is causing inefficiency?
- Which aspects of the process work really well?
- Is the process flexible enough to adapt to unforeseen changes?
- What kind of iterations would improve adoption?
Process design can be extremely complicated depending on the scope of the process in question, which is why many organizations, particularly those with large teams, use modeling software like BPMN or UML. We have written tutorials for both of these options, which you can access by clicking their respective links.
Now, let’s get into the bulk of the post – how to get your team (and other employees in the organization) involved and actively contributing to the design of internal processes.
5 ways to get employees involved
1. Provide incentives to contribute from the get-go
There’s no better place to start instilling a culture of collaboration than during the onboarding period. One study reports that 53% of HR professionals say employee engagement rises when onboarding is improved.
As an employee works their way through training, they are soaking up as much information as they can, while naturally making all kinds of assumptions and judgments about team politics and the general work environment.
“A new hire’s experience on their first day sets the stage (and their mindset) for the rest of their employment.” – Yoh
Setting a strong foundation will only improve the input you receive from employees as you involve them in process design decision-making further down the line.
The “strong foundation” I am referring to is one of empowerment. Coach new hires in a way that makes it clear you value their opinion and are not merely expecting them to fulfill the list of 5-10 bullet-points stated on their job description. While that is of course the main purpose, it is not everything.
Some employees won’t want to contribute to projects that are outside their scope of work, even if it provides an opportunity to collaborate with senior management, and that’s ok. The important thing is to display good leadership by communicating they can if they would like to because you recognize they have valuable insight you don’t.
2. Formulate a plan for communicating process improvement initiatives
If you would like to invite some employees to discuss the design of a particular process, how do you reach out to them? Does shooting them a quick email really do the job?
Well, an email is the most obvious method, but there are lots of other creative ways to get their attention and maximize the chance of receiving genuine interest to contribute.
The 2 key points to consider here are:
- Use a variety of communication methods, from emails to internal newsletters and lunchroom posters.
- Identify and empower process improvement champions to foster interest among other employees.
To illustrate an example, let’s say you are a sales director working on a BANT sales qualification process and would like some input from an all-star SDR and 3 of your most productive AE’s.
Salespeople are notoriously busy (or at least should be!) and don’t like to waste time as they are always working to meet tough quotas. They are constantly firing off emails to leads, opportunities, new customers and will possibly not even notice an email inviting them to help design an internal process, let alone take it seriously.
But imagine if in this scenario, one of the AE’s had previously helped design a process for creating a pitch deck and it had worked tremendously well. Not only that, but she had been recognized and praised by senior management for her contribution.
Now, you can approach this AE and ask if she could inform a couple of her colleagues that their assistance in designing a sales qualification checklist would be much appreciated, and their efforts recognized by other members of the team.
This changes the situation completely, all thanks to good old fashioned human interaction.
3. Establish a process for collecting, organizing, and evaluating feedback
This is quite a meaty point considering there are 3 equally important components all wrapped up in one.
If we continue to expand on the example I illustrated in the previous point, it will be easier to understand its practical application.
As the sales director looking to create a new and improved BANT sales qualification process, you would like to collaborate with a handful of the most productive salespeople to get more insight into how they execute the process on a daily basis.
We’ve established that you should use a variety of communication methods and empower process improvement champions to create a more compelling case for their involvement.
Now it’s all about how you collect and interpret their feedback once you’ve got their attention. This process should not be complicated, just effective.
Examples of simple ways to do this are to create group chats in Slack, or ideally your CRM (Salesforce has a “Groups” feature that is great for this) where employees are directed to post their feedback.
Holding in-person meetings is, of course, a great way too, but can be rather time-consuming and ineffective if participants are not prepared.
By posting feedback in your CRM, the salespeople can work from within the tool they are most familiar with, which not only organizes their comments, but also makes it a lot easier for you to evaluate them and respond, whether that be alone in your office or during a meeting where you run through their feedback as a group.
“When leaders respond quickly to ideas and questions, employees get the message their input is valued and they become more committed and engaged.” – David Grossman, The Grossman Group
Another great way to collect feedback is surveys, which, according to CultureIQ is the most popular method to actively manage and drive employee engagement (55%).
You could do this by sending the salespeople the current process along with a survey asking them various questions about what could be improved, along with a section for general comments. You can then go through these surveys in your own time and implement changes as you see fit. No human interaction, but extremely effective nonetheless.
4. Temporarily dissolve layers of authority
Collaboration works best when everyone feels equal. I think that’s common sense.
If you would like your employees to be honest and voice their opinions, it’s essential that you present yourself as another member of the team and nothing more.
“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” – Henry Ford
Always be patient, understanding, and listen to everyone’s comments. Such characteristics of good leadership go beyond process design and have a significant influence on the work environment in general.
It has been reported by Businessolver that 98% of HR professionals and 92% of employees surveyed said empathetic employers drive retention.
Not much more to say here, just be a team player!
5. Remember it’s not just about identifying the best suggestions
This final point is not so much a way to involve your employees, but rather an essential point of consideration that will create greater synergy between you and the employees you involve in process design and improvement initiatives.
It’s about involvement – the process of involvement, rather than just the value extracted from it.
In other words, the aim of involving your employees in process design should not be merely to improve the process, but to provide them with an opportunity to contribute to important operational procedures that will influence their team or organization as a whole.
By acknowledging the importance of this you will not only improve processes through employee involvement, but will also establish mutual respect with all participants through recognition of their efforts, improving morale and in turn, productivity.
Get your employees involved with process design!
The key takeaways from this article are that in order to effectively involve your employees in process design initiatives, you need to:
- Instill a culture of open and honest communication through attentive, personalized onboarding.
- Provide channels for employees to easily voice suggestions and concerns by integrating various tools like Slack and your CRM.
- Utilize a variety of communication vehicles beyond email to show the benefit of being involved.
- Identify process design/improvement champions and empower them to encourage contribution from other employees.
- Recognize that all input is valuable and should be considered with equal care and attention.
- Be a good leader who makes employees feel comfortable, trusted, and valued.
I hope you found this article helpful! If you have any other ways of involving employees in the design of your processes that you find super effective, let me know in the comments below!