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Use your best problem solvers: employees

by Ana Lopez
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Suresh Krishna is the president and CEO of Northern tools + equipment.

Employees build great businesses and they often know what to do to revive them.

When faced with challenges, the natural response may be to bring in a consultant. No offense to consultants – I’ve used them before and they can certainly help – but the better answer may lie in your staff roster.

By involving your employees in the problem-solving process, I believe you can innovate faster and foster a culture where employee engagement is paramount.

Implementation of a team-based approach

In early 2020, every company faced unique challenges that demanded transformation. Many companies had to make quick decisions and put band-aids on problems while seeking long-term solutions.

It was during this time, in an effort to maximize my organization’s resources, that my company focused on gathering insights and ideas from team members to shape our strategy and areas of focus for the future – contradicting the notion of C-suite executives sitting in a boardroom making decisions.

I’m glad we did because I believe it helped us find a sustainable solution for strategic planning and prioritization. You can apply this philosophy of employee involvement throughout organizations, from managing margins to real estate selections to recruiting employees.

By giving voice to team members across the organization, you involve them in the strategic planning process for the company. Taking a team-based approach to solving business problems is a tall order, but you can rise to the challenge by doing these three things.

Be enterprising and listen

An entrepreneurial mindset means constantly looking for ways to improve your business and being willing to listen to almost any advice, idea or suggestion. When you adopt this mindset, you start listening more. And when people feel heard, they feel valued.

A culture that embraces the entrepreneurial mindset is one in which employees are encouraged to speak up about the problems they experience and offer their solutions. Your employees are knowledgeable and can be a valuable resource and offer unique perspectives when they are intentionally given the opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions.

Take listening to a whole new level and organize ongoing engagement, such as listening sessions, forums or town hall meetings with your employees to get their feedback. For people who don’t feel comfortable sharing their ideas in groups, provide a platform where they can submit their innovations online or whenever they think of it.

Consistent touchpoints enable leadership teams to deliver project updates and celebrate the people and teams moving the business forward. Consider visiting your stores, offices, or other locations to meet with your employees and have those conversations that can’t always happen over a phone or computer screen.

Know your customer by keeping your employees engaged

Employees are your boots on the ground. Many of them are in daily contact with the customer. They know what the customer is looking for, what they need and how they can best serve them.

So when employees share their views, it’s not just enough to listen to them, but to keep them engaged. Employees will continue to provide solutions to business challenges if you prove that you listen to and implement their suggestions.

And when you end up solving one of your company’s biggest problems with employee ideas and suggestions, celebrate. Give honor where honor is due.

I suggest you take a moment to reflect on your core values. Do your core values ​​as a company include engaging and empowering your employees to prioritize the customer and share ways to keep the customer at the center of everything you do?

Living by core values ​​should foster a corporate culture of transparency. It can also generate excitement and potentially speed up progression and breakthrough achievements.

Empower the individual and create leaders

Look for ways to empower, invest and develop your employees into leaders within your organization. The value of retention goes far, and fostering leaders from within can help strengthen your company’s culture. It can also help avoid rapid turnover and the constant costs of training new team members.

When employees see opportunities for advancement and growth within your company, it can be a reason to stay on the team and work your way up to those senior roles.

When you promote from within, your leaders are now looking to the new hires and modeling and shaping them to become the next generation of leaders. I find that institutional knowledge and alignment of core values ​​are invaluable in building strong teams that are adept at solving problems.

Follow through

But these strategies only work if you are determined to get the most out of your employees and see the problem-solving power in them. You can’t just prioritize engaging employees and investing in them if you don’t follow their suggestions and ideas.

Commitment and investment without action will work against you.

When using your employees as problem solvers, ask your leadership team to be accessible and look for additional ways to empower frontline workers. When you face challenges as a business, it can be easy to bring in a consultant. Instead, I challenge you to look first at the team of experts you already have.

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