The hired hands

The small-to-medium-sized engineering company had been highly successful since it had been founded 10 years previously.

Yet the management recognised only too well that, over that period of time, a malaise had fallen over the workforce. They had become increasingly disenchanted by their potential to affect any control over the destiny of the company and many felt that they had become no more than hired hands.

So the board of the company called a meeting to decide what might be done about it. And at that meeting the personnel director, who had taken several short courses on encouraging innovation, was solemnly given the duty to re-invigorate the workforce by any means that he saw fit.

The personnel director immediately recognised what needed to be done. And so he put in place several different programmes to transform the workplace, enabling the employees to voice their opinions where appropriate and to suggest new avenues that the company might pursue to increase its profitability.

Over a period of six months, he set up suggestion boxes around the company and encouraged all members of staff to contribute at least one new idea that might contribute to their own personal empowerment. Not only that, but he organised a series of six-monthly intra-departmental meetings between all the members of staff so that they could share ideas on how they might co-operate more effectively.

Needless to say, the junior members of the company saw the new directive as a great opportunity to open a fruitful dialogue between themselves and the management. They made all number of suggestions they truly believed might help the company become more profitable, developing new revenue streams by entering new markets. They also contributed immensely to the six-monthly meetings, where they bounced around numerous ideas on how they might collaborate with one another better.

The personnel manager was very encouraged by the efforts that the staff had made to contribute such a wealth of interesting proposals. He documented them all in several comprehensive tomes that were then passed to the board of the company for review.

Sadly though, none of the ideas that the staff proposed were ever implemented. There were some members of the board that didn’t even take the time to read them and those that did considered them far too untried or radical to ever be put into practice.

Nevertheless, the whole exercise had a cathartic effect on the engineering company and its workforce. The workers suddenly felt part of the organisation again, they felt that their ideas were being listened to and, most importantly, they felt that they were playing a vitally important role in the success of the company. Whether they were or not was irrelevant – their faith in the company had been restored.

Dave Wilson
Editor, Engineeringtalk

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