Importance of Empowering Frontline Staff
marketing, engineering, IT, customer service and other departments
in non-healthcare organizations face issues similar to those in the
healthcare industry. Suppose that the sales and engineering staff
undermine each other. Resulting delays may reduce client
satisfaction; if severe, the conflict could derail an entire
contract. Employees need quick and accurate action instead of
obstacles and delays.
For example, a
hospital patient asks for a banana. The nurse calls the dietary
manager, who replies, “not without a doctor’s order.“ After talking
to two nearby managers who commiserate with her, the nurse mentions
it to a Senior VP, who was passing through the unit. The senior VP
intervenes and the patient, unhappy about the long wait, finally
receives the banana. The time taken by each person to solve his
problem makes the cost of the banana exceed $100. This wasted money,
due to miscommunication and failure to integrate department systems,
is an example of why medical care costs have escalated.
with decision-making authorization save management time and increase
client satisfaction. Organizations providing work environments where
staff can perform at their best attract and retain the best people.
Positive employee relationships generate energy and raise
Save money, improve
client satisfaction, and reduce expensive errors with the following
1. Empower your
frontline staff to solve client problems on the spot. Then support them. When frontline employees hesitate
to make the independent decisions related to critical thinking, it’s
because they have been reprimanded for doing so in the past. They
have learned to wait for specific directions from their managers
rather than functioning as autonomous professionals. This ingrained
habit is difficult to break. The best way to change this habit is to
build trust by giving your staff consistent support. Don’t let your
chain of command become a ball and chain. When you empower frontline
employees, you save money, clients are more satisfied, and
2. Building trust
enables you to use your intellectual capital. When your staff
trusts each other, they save time and money, because people who
trust others can act quickly and decisively. How do you build trust?
By respecting yourself and others, by being a role model, by
courteous communication, and by sensitivity to the needs of others.
For instance, a frontline employee working on a joint venture with a
valued client needs to transfer very complex documents with multiple
imbedded links. She wanted to make the transfers in a way that is
time effective for herself and the other company. She thinks that
using a particular website would make it possible to easily transfer
the files and asks her manager if their company prefers any one
site. The manager suggests that she discuss it with the IT manager.
The IT manager agrees that the site will work, and explains how best
to set it up. Since the frontline worker had the autonomy to contact
the IT manager directly, she saved time and prevented wasted time in
repeated tasks. Staff members establish trust in you when you make
consistent decisions according to what is right, rather than what is
easy. When companies use the intellectual capital of their frontline
employees, they save many $100 bananas and preserve trusting
relationships with their business partners.
3. Build a positive
Organizations that provide environments where staff can perform at
their best attract and retain the best people. Long-term strategies
such as effective communication and staff-friendly cultures enable
organizations to achieve the best results. Building a positive
culture takes multiple elements: respect, consistency, and
integrity. A positive culture is worth the effort because it
promotes employee understanding of organizational values enabling
them to make smart decisions for clients.
4. Insist that
staff collaborate instead of compete.
yourself the question, “Is everyone aligned behind our sales
strategy?” Everyone can accomplish more when departments work
together. Good communication and collaboration save time and money,
and increase productivity. For instance, a salesperson may sell a
product or service, but if he expects to make repeat sales, the
customer service person and the delivery person must also interact
effectively with clients. No matter how good the sales person is,
future sales will be lost if the customer service person is
insensitive to the client’s needs or if the delivery person is rude.
This kind of alignment is essential for any company because the
faces of all of these people are the faces that reflect the whole
company from a client perspective.
5. Brainstorm about
the opportunities that lie beyond the challenges. Dedicate a portion of your staff meetings to list
current challenges. Then talk about ways to transform these
challenges into opportunities. Perhaps you will be able to redefine
your selling proposition to increase sales. For instance, look at
both sides of client complaints. Ask yourself if the complaint
reflects a client’s need for a new product or service that your
company could offer.
Poor communication wastes time, delays decisions, and damages
morale. As the $100 banana illustrates, poor communication is also
expensive. Even proven communication strategies are rendered
ineffective when staff manage to find new ways to sabotage one
another in negative cultures.
7. Solve the root
causes of problem.
employees have no power to solve the root causes of their
problems, they end up creating temporary fixes day after day. This
wastes huge amounts of time, costing their companies significant
amounts of money and reducing quality for clients. Solving the root
causes of problems may enable you to move from a product focus to a
client focus, building your business in new strategic ways.
Core values such as
respectful communication and integrity cost nothing. Smarter
managers empower their staff to assist people in working together
with conceptual communication and leadership approaches that enable
them to leverage scarce resources and to do more with less. More
than helping to maximize client satisfaction, using these tips will
address the bottom line for managers: the dollar difference between
the present level of staff productivity and full professional
capacity are the number of $100 bananas you can save.
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