"Employees know what they need most to serve customers best," says Patty Remen, corporate relations manager for The Davis Companies. The $47-million staffing and human resources management company, in Marlborough, Mass., uses a two-stage process to tap the insights of its 1,500 employees.

In the first stage, suggestions for improvement are requested in the comment section of periodic employee surveys. Twice a year, a tear-off page is added to employee time cards, requesting comments: "How can we better serve you, and how can you better serve our customers?" Employees have generated ideas such as the introduction of client handbooks, improved communication between divisions serving the same client, phone training for all employees, and increased staffing at the reception desk.

In the second stage, employees are asked to rate the importance of 100 or more ideas generated in the first stage. "Employees are there on the job, not management," notes Remen, "so they have the clearest idea of which improvements are needed most to serve customers. Their ideas and insights are central in our quality efforts."

The surveys have definitely improved Davis's services. One employee suggested more in-depth training for an assembly position at a manufacturing client company, so Davis designed a customized, on-site training program for staff in that position. "The client was so impressed with the results, it asked us to train its employees as well," says Remen. "Something that started as a way to improve service to our client became a revenue generator for us."

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing