UNLIKE other resources, human resources cannot be controlled in full.
People have their own perception of issues and will always tend to incorporate their views in whatever they do.
This often leads to deviations between what management wants done and what actually gets done.
One way to minimise these deviations is the involvement of employees by management.
From a human resources point of view, involvement of employees relates to productivity and improvement in general.
From the customer point of view it leads to satisfaction and morale. Involvement does not mean a one-off interaction.
It means sustained efforts to build a common vision and to work towards the same objectives.
When people are involved, they tend to place the organisation’s interests above their own. It is through involvement of people that their full potential is realised.
It does not make business sense to employ someone and then make use of only some of his or her abilities.
By involving employees, productivity will be increased without necessarily having to increase the wage bill.
This is so because involved employees work smarter not necessarily longer hours.
On this principle, the International Organisation for Standardisation, ISO, says “people at all levels are the essence of an organisation and their full involvement enables their abilities to be used for the organisation’s benefit.”
Clearly, ISO looks at involvement of people primarily from the perspective that employees are a resource and that their full potential can be realised through involvement.
One way of looking at it is that people involvement means people will know and understand the vision and mission of the organisation, thus building a common vision for the organisation.
It is generally recognised that involvement of people leads to their understanding of the importance of their role and contribution in the organisation.
That, in turn, leads to improved motivation and commitment.
When people are involved, they tend to accept ownership of problems and challenges they encounter in work situations.
They are then likely to take responsibility for solving them.
Such an environment would foster innovation and creativity among employees.
One common challenge in management has to do with performance evaluation.
While it is easy to understand the need for evaluation, it is not always easy to agree on how it should be done.
The problem is that such evaluation is always results-based; yet people may spend a lot of their time on processes that do not produce tangible or measurable results, despite the fact that they do add value.
Employees who are involved will be able to evaluate themselves, in the first place.
They will also be able and willing to contribute to the process of their own evaluation.
Involvement removes fear and results in open discussion of problems and issues as well as identifying constraints to their performance.
It is critical that involvement of people is not confused with the normal decision-making process.
In organisations with poor quality culture, employees may consider their involvement as a sign of weakness on the part of leadership and may be offended if management does not go with the majority view after consultation.
While involvement allows managers to make informed decisions by getting different views and new ideas from others, managers still retain responsibility and have the final say in any matter at hand.
Decisions should not necessarily be majority-based.
One of the responsibilities of leadership is to create more leaders. Employees who are involved get to understand how their leaders reach certain decisions.
Over time they themselves will be in a position to make decisions on the same issues and at the higher level than they are at.
This way, new leaders are born. Another aspect of leadership is delegation.
It is only possible to delegate effectively if people know, understand and have the same vision as their leaders.
Involvement is the main vehicle for promoting such an environment.
Involvement of people as customers is important for addressing their expectations.
We have said that quality is about meeting customer requirements and expectations.
If employees are not involved, they will create their own expectations which might be very different from those of the organisation. So, in the first instance, involvement would mean sharing information.
It does not necessarily mean agreement all the time.
For example, if the organisation is not in a position to offer salary increases in a given year, it is better to inform employees as soon as that is known and decided.
They can then adjust their expectation accordingly.
Let’s keep in mind that is done through teamwork.
However, for real achievement, all players must be actively involved. More important, it is the sum of our collective contribution that counts.
As Ken Blanchard puts it, “No one is as smart as all of us”. One is tempted to add: “not even the boss”.
Our ancestors were not oblivious to this fact and said “Bohle ha bo ahe ntlong e le nngoe”.
Loosely translating into: “Wisdom is not confined to one household”.
Whether it is at organisational or national level, everyone who should be involved must be.
Indeed, we need all of ourselves to tackle the challenges facing our country; nothing less.
● Tlhako Mokhoro is the principal consultant of Paradym Consulting, a company that specialises in the management of quality and productivity. He has been in the field since 1982 and is a member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ)