Using Problem Solving to Hit the Bull’s-eye of Employee Engagement

You’re walking down the road to a more engaged workforce. Now make employee-identified problems a tool for fostering that culture.

In July’s blog post on employee engagement, we looked through rose-colored lenses at the composition of an engaged workforce. For those who dared to tackle the challenge and put efforts behind engaging employees, nettime solutions is casting the vision even further into the realm of problem solving. Together the two topics can play off each other, producing powerful effects on office morale and forever changing the perception of one’s work environment.

Take for example a simple whiteboard standing alone in the corner of a break room. Could this whiteboard become a hub of discussion and innovation? Could it lower employees’ walls enough for them to share their most frustrating workplace challenges?

The answer is YES! But only if you let it. Like the great Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”

How does it work you ask?

In this engaged workplace, employees are asked to share problems they are facing in one column on the whiteboard. The issue needs to be stated as a problem and not a solution. For example one may write, “There is no room to park in our lot.” A solution statement that limits discussion would read, “We need more parking spaces.” Phrasing the statement as a problem like, “there is no room to park in our lot” or “when I come to work I cannot find a parking spot,” allow employees to look for multiple ways to overcome the challenge, such as, in this case, the somewhat tongue-in-cheek free suggestion to “get to work earlier to find a parking spot.”

In a second column coworkers and management can openly brainstorm reasons this problem exists and in a third column list the potential solutions to the problem. An employee may be experiencing a lack of parking places because there is a spill over of cars from a nearby establishment or the building could simply be at capacity for the number of workers it is housing each day. The solution could include putting up signage that denotes the lots are only for employee parking or creating a company carpool system.

At Google headquarters, a similar problem resulted in the company establishing their own transportation for workers. The solution was suggested by employees and now operates as “The Google Bus”, a fleet of 32 shuttles. Not only was this solution created by a Google employee, it has underlying benefits beyond just solving the initial problem. By using The Google Bus, fewer employees are driving their own cars, which results in decreased fuel consumption, reduced vehicle emissions and less land needed for parking lots. The solution to this simple problem has spurred an all out green initiative. What is more, Google employees that ride the bus may also be less stressed upon arrival to work as a result of not fighting traffic. Arriving at work refreshed verses stressed allows workers to jump right into their tasks instead of trying to unwind — a perk that could lead to increased productivity.

This type of problem solving helps everyone to feel involved in the issue and take ownership of the problem and the solution. Not all solutions will cost an employer financially and some may even lead to notable new company practices. When employees share openly, the concerns are addressed by management, and the company pulls together as a team to produce a solution, you’ve hit the bull’s-eye.

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