Today is the final Tim Woods day, S for Staff. Underutilized staff talent can be the greatest waste possible. Recognizing and engaging the talents of your staff will lead to the greatest innovations.
There are three primary ways in which staff is underutilized:
- They are hired to a certain set of tasks, but spend their time on other tasks.
- They are not encouraged to speak up or innovate.
- They are not involved in problem solving.
As a manager or a project manager, part of your role to clear the way for people to contribute. This could mean
- training, both in process improvement methods and also in how to communicate their ideas in a positive manner.
- working with managers so that they know what to expect and can encourage their staff to participate.
- spending time coaching quieter employees to help give them the confidence to express themselves.
- spending time matching people’s skills to their roles. Just shifting people a little to where they are best can mean huge gains for little effort.
- actively involving multiple levels of staff in projects, so that they have ownership and become more engaged.
- encouraging people to try new things on a small scale, even if they fail. Encourage them to try again. Your biggest successes will come from this.
Google is perennially listed as one of the best US companies to work for. Laszlo Bock, SVP of People Operations at Google, in Work Rules!, describes the work dynamic between managers and staff. The managers role is more to clear obstacles and make sure the staff have whatever they need to excel at their jobs. This sets a high standard of work on both managers and staff. Managers are put in a position to give staff more freedom then the manager feels comfortable with and staff have very high expectations set upon them. Google does this across the organization by design. And it works.
Let’s look at some math. If you have a staff of 10 people and they are an average of only 30 years old, they have maybe 10 years of professional work experience each. That is 100 years of work experience. There are not many companies that have been around that long. Those 100 years are going to have sparked some ideas and you just need to bring them out. Even better if those 100 were not all in your business or industry. Now you are effectively bringing in fresh talent! All from your existing staff!
To sum up, engage your staff. Give them the freedom and the expectation to innovate. There is a huge, deep pool of knowledge there that just need to be let through the dam. And you can ride that flow all of the way to success!