Your company can have the most sophisticated equipment, the sleekest facilities, the best location and in-demand products, but none of it works without the human touch.
Your workforce is your most valuable asset. The knowledge and skills they have represent the fuel that drives the engine of business—and you can leverage that knowledge. Everyone in the company can benefit from their co-workers’ experience.
Encourage an atmosphere where employees are secure enough in their jobs that they are comfortable sharing their expertise and mentoring their co-workers.
Here's how to set up a successful employee workshop:
1. Be present. The manager (you) can lead the first session, just to make sure everyone is on the same page. Explain the purpose, and ask for suggestions. Include a discussion on what the company is trying to do, how it’s doing, and where it’s headed. Don’t assume all the employees already know the answers.
2. Don’t make the sessions feel like extra work. Workshops can be scheduled at a regular time or as-needed. Food is a great ice-breaker. Keep the meetings to a reasonable length. Make sure to include everyone in the process.
3. Recruit your top performers to share their expertise. It’s not hard to identify who excels at customer service or managing data or sales. But does everyone know why this person is so good at what they do? Are there techniques they could share? How did they get so good? Are others comfortable asking them for advice?
4. Encourage team-teaching. People from different departments need to collaborate on projects, so it makes sense to have those teams explain how they’ve been successful working together.
5. Aim for quality. Make sure the presentations contain useful information and that the presenter is prepared. Be specific about the kind of information you want when you ask an employee to lead a workshop. Don’t forget to ask what questions they receive most often from co-workers.
6. Provide incentives. In a climate of tight budgets, reduced workforces and stiff competition, internal training can be a great substitute for costly offsite workshops and conferences. Reward presenters.
7. Say thank you. Say it not just to the presenters, but also to those who attend. Employees need to know their efforts are appreciated. Recognizing their desire to improve their performance often makes people try even harder.
Perhaps the best advice I can give is that you, the manager, show up for every session. Your presence lets presenters and participants alike know the value of these meetings. Be an active participant, too. Ask questions and share experiences. Just don’t take over.
Here’s an added bonus: You have a terrific opportunity to present problems that you need help with, and demonstrate to your staff that you value their opinions. Think of them as your “inside consultants,” people who have good working knowledge of your business and a vested interest in making it work.
If you believe, as I do, that your employees truly are your most valuable asset, you will do whatever you can to help them do their jobs as well as possible.