Why is change so difficult within organizations? You could compare the situation to Newton’s first law, which states that an object remains at rest or continues to move at constant velocity unless it’s acted upon by some force. And yet, sometimes when employees are acted upon by the “force” of change directives issued from above, there’s no guarantee that meaningful change will actually happen.
The key concept is that often it’s the issuing of change “from above” that’s the problem. However, when employees are involved in decision-making from the start, better decisions are made, they’re adopted more readily, and everyone feels invested in the change that the decision wrought. You can think of this as folding a significant portion of change management into the decision-making process itself. Here are some other benefits of involving your employees in decision-making.
Involving Employees in Decision-Making Can Boost Productivity
Involve your employees in decision-making and they develop both a personal and professional stake in the success of that decision. When employees are empowered to assist with major decisions, they’re more committed to the changes that come from them, and generally anticipate seeing those changes succeed. The result can be increased productivity, and a shared sense of responsibility on the job. When employees feel a sense of “ownership of decisions made in the workplace, they also feel a greater sense of responsibility, and the result can be an overall more aligned and profitable organization.
Employee Involvement in Decision-Making Is Good for Morale
When front-line employees feel a strong disconnect between themselves and management, they may feel as if they are mere tools being used by others to attain certain ends. When a decision is made that changes a process, and employees had no say in it, morale can sink precipitously. On the other hand, when workers are engaged in decision-making from the beginning, morale generally improves. Including employees in decision-making helps bridge any disconnect or perceived gap between management and front line employees, letting employees know that their ideas matter and that they’re not just “tools” but valued participants in organizational processes.
Employee Involvement Can Identify Problems and Unintended Consequences
Involving your employees in decision-making isn’t just about raising productivity or keeping morale on the upswing. It can help identify problems the change may trigger, or unintended consequences that management may not think of. Ideally, the result is a better understanding of situations and processes. Additionally, conflicts that can result from executive decisions that culminate in edicts to the workforce that come across as inconsiderate and tone deaf can be avoided. Perhaps more importantly, employee involvement can result in doing change right the first time, even if it takes a bit longer to get there.
Inclusive Decision-Making Requires Practice to Perfect
If your organization has a tradition of decisions being made behind closed doors, the transition to employee involvement in decision-making may feel unsettling. But it gets easier and more effective with practice. There’s no question that including everyone in the making of important decisions slows the process down, but it doesn’t have to slow it down excessively. Furthermore, this slow-down is often well worthwhile because change management becomes easier and employees are invested in the changes going on. With continued practice, employee involvement in decision-making enhances problem-solving capacity and leaves everyone feeling more empowered.
Letting Go of Some of the Control Can Be Disconcerting
An executive may consider this and conclude that involving employees is simply too much work and makes the decision-making process to complicated. Besides, that’s partly what executives are for, right? To make decisions. But in fact, involving employees from the beginning leads to better decisions, a more engaged workforce, and better execution of change management.
When major decisions are in the hands of a few, with no input from the people affected, you can expect to spend more time and money on change management than you would if affected employees had been involved from the start. Add to those costs disaffected employees and possible unintended consequences, and it only makes sense to include employees in decisions that affect their day-to-day work lives. I encourage you to check out my books on effective executive leadership, and also my speaking and training services, leadership coaching, and corporate culture services.