A while back I encountered an interesting phenomenon, while conducting employee focus group meetings. Employees kept talking about "the carpet people" and the "tile people." At first I thought these terms were industry specific. However, after hearing several sarcastic comments, it became clear to me these terms were being used to differentiate between professional employees, who sat in nicely carpeted offices and cubicles, and manufacturing personnel, who had tile beneath them.
Confused, I probed further. It was then that one of the "tile people" informed me that there was a distinct line (a door) where the tile ended and the carpeting began. In management’s defense, the work space set up for those "tile people" assembling the product seemed in line with other light manufacturing environments that I’ve seen. It seems the real issue wasn’t the carpet or the tile. It was the door that had been put up between the two workspaces to insulate both areas from hall conversations.
Do you have barriers to productivity that you don't even know are there? Here's how you can find out and what you can do about it:
Check the physical layout of your offices-Often times companies don’t give much thought to the physical layout of their offices. That’s too bad because employees generally do. Can you easily identify, with the naked eye, who is important and who is not?
Walk around your offices and see how your workspace is laid out. Have doors been put up that have resulted in people feeling shut out from the rest of the organization? If so, it’s time to open those doors so that communication can flow freely throughout your organization. It may also be time to bring in some design people to help create a space that is less hierarchical.
Focus on being inclusive rather than exclusive-If you’ve worked in the corporate world long enough you’ve probably experienced the following situation. You walk by the conference room and the "executive team" (all four of them) are huddled around a flipchart, which contains strategic questions on an area you are intimately familiar with. After all, you are the manager of the department.
You find it interesting that no one has asked your opinion. You quietly go back to your desk and return the call to the headhunter, who left you a voicemail yesterday. You don’t bother to close your office door since you are confident that no one will be coming by to invite you to the meeting.
Why bother to hire competent managers if the senior team is going to make all the decisions? Most employees want to contribute to the success of the organization. They want to know that their opinion matters. The next time you hold another "executive meeting" think about who else should attend. You might be surprised that the answer is right in front of you.
Communicate, communicate, communicate-Imagine what it must be like working in the dark all day. Actually some people do enjoy working this way, but they are in the minority.
In order for employees to be productive they need to be kept in the loop. Look throughout your organization for ways to improve the flow of communication. The fixes might be as simple as a weekly Monday morning meeting. Ask employees for their suggestions. Not only will you increase communication, but you will also create a more inclusive workforce.
Invest in on going team building-Too many companies approach teambuilding as a flavor of the month. Here is a typical example. The CEO attends some executive conference where he experiences an amazing transformation as a result of a team building exercise. Upon his return, he calls "Outward Bound" and books an event for the entire company. He then gathers the troops and tells them about their upcoming teambuilding off-site. Eyes roll and employees quickly begin to think of five reasons why they can’t attend, before the CEO finishes his speech.
Most likely this is not the first time the CEO has come back from an off-site with another wonderful idea for helping employees bond with one another. Of course that was last year and after the event little else happened.
It takes time to build a team and employers must be prepared to go the distance. If you are serious about this initiative, start by putting together a cross section of employees and charging them with this task. Congratulations, now you’re walking the talk. You’ve just put together your first team!
Uniting employees requires commitment by all involved parties. You know how devastating it can be when you’re organization is split. Now think how powerful your business will be when everyone is on the same side of the door.
I had a conversation yesterday with the former CEO of the company, where the "Tile People" and the "Carpet People" resided. He just signed a lease for his venture and was proud to tell me that the entire office space was tile!
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