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4 Reasons Companies Should Invest in Employee Participation Programs

Posted by Nate Pruitt

Apr 21, 2014 11:00:00 AM

Harness the Power of Your Crowd

3932774410_de2ac87d74_mThere’s a reason why, out of billions of web pages, Google can almost always bring you the one with the bit of information you want.  It’s what James Surowiecki calls, “The Wisdom of Crowds.” The collective behavior toward a webpage measured in visits and links gives Google far better insight into its value to a searcher than any person ever could.  This principle applies to business as well.  As Surowiecki wrote in his 2004 best seller, “… much of what we've seen so far suggests that a large group of diverse individuals will come up with better and more robust forecasts and make more intelligent decisions than even the most skilled decision maker."

Companies can capitalize on this idea by harnessing the power of their own crowd, their employees through employee participation programs.

Here are four ways investing in an employee participation program pays off:

1 – Better Vision

If you want to get a good look at something, it’s useful to examine it from a number of points of view.  Getting very close reveals details that can’t be seen from far away and stepping back exposes an object’s relative size and context.  Executive management is necessarily distanced from the day to day activities of employees; it’s their job to take the 30,000 foot view of the business.  It’s important, but it’s a very different view than the one from the ground.  Employee participation programs invite the people who are closest to the company’s business challenges look for opportunities for improvement and innovation, providing  management with a more complete understanding of the whole picture.

2 – Idea Diversity

Everyone thinks about and approaches problems differently.  We all bring our background, experience and unique point of view to every decision.  This “cognitive diversity” results in better decision making than individual judgment alone.  This is especially true when cross-functional teams are involved in the employee participation program.

3 – Invested Staff

People are much more likely to have a personal investment in the outcome of a plan of action if they were involved in making the plan.  Employee participation programs create a direct connection to problem resolution and overall corporate improvement.  People can perform remarkable feats when they take the results personally.

4 – Culture of Recognition

Employee participation programs are an excellent way to recognize and reward the employees who are helping your organization improve and innovate.  Embedding the idea of recognition into your program makes it a natural part of your corporate culture.  As an added benefit, employees who are recognized for their contributions are more likely to recognize others for their work, creating a self-fulfilling cycle.

Certainly not all decisions can be “crowdsourced,” but allowing employees to participate in management’s efforts to identify opportunities for improvement and act on them is a powerful way to harness the collective intelligence and insight of your team.  Investing in an employee participation program can ultimately pay back tenfold by improving decision making, completing the business picture, and ensuring engagement.

Have an employee participation program?  What benefits have you seen?

Topics: Collaboration

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