Andy Savva – What level of input should employees have on the running of your business?

Andy Savva
Savva has run various large independent garages and has been a troubleshooter for underperforming franchise workshops.

Here’s a question: If you are ever in a position to expand your business should you take full control or let your employees take charge?

This is not as straightforward as the question may suggest; let me explain.

In most garage businesses that I’ve encountered it’s very rare to find an established culture where employees are encouraged for feedback and ideas let alone allowing them to take charge of a new business opportunity that an owner may have recognised. So you can imagine the reaction of employees if they are asked to take control of a new business idea.

Let’s for a moment imagine you’ve decided to allow your team to take control, as with any a new business idea funding is required, would you seek financial assistance from your people? Why wouldn’t you? After all they are the ones who are going to drive this business opportunity forward.

Well here is where conflict may arise. Most employees are not in a financial situation to invest, and if they were, how much and what return will they seek? Or how much stake will the current owner be willing to give away? Do they have the necessary business skills needed for the project to succeed? There will almost certainly be a barrier from others or a lack of employee enthusiasm, these differences and expectations between stakeholders can create a split between the whole team. It’s natural for individuals to have varied assumptions and beliefs.

So it might sound that I’m arguing in favour of garage owners running their businesses in a despotic fashion, but this isn’t the point I’m making. What I mean is that it is unlikely that your employees will want to invest financially in your business, and that some of their ideas might not always make scene. Does this mean you shouldn’t ask employees for their input? Well, if you don’t consult your staff and customers then how will you know if you are making any business mistakes?

It’s my view, for a business to be successful whatever the scale it must have a strategy in place where all employees are encouraged for feedback and ideas.

At Brunswick Garage we called it ‘Employee Voice, Social Partnership and Reward’. This certainly applies to workshops that have designs to take on the franchised dealers at their own game, but it is also a pillar of Japanese-inspired lean management methods where all employees are encouraged to contribute suggestions to make the working day more efficient.

At Brunswick, it was important to encourage a forum of two-way dialogue and this was discussed at interview stage to prospective new starters and then constantly communicated with all staff throughout the year. This enabled staff to influence events at work and bring together a collectiveness.. It was important for me to explain this effectively in order to gain meaningful input and ideas. Everyone in my firm was aware of both our business and financial performance, tool needs, charity involvement, and of course challenges facing us in the aftermarket.

So in summary, I would suggest that you take any suggestions put forward by your staff seriously, even if you ultimately reject them. Some form of suggestion box, rather than expecting them to tell you face-to-face is also a good idea.

The main advantages of

developing employee voice are:

  • You will be more aware of what’s going on in your business
  • It increases employee engagement
  • It encourages effective decision making and drives innovation
  • It helps employees to feel that their opinions are valued
  • It encourages employee retention because employees feel valued
  • As there is better communication, it helps with organisational change
  • It’s fun doing it this way
  • You can reward the right person for an idea that works

Some evaluation criteria

developing employee voice are:

  • Cost reduction
  • Generating business income
  • Increasing market share
  • Improving customer service or relations
  • Improving the working environment or work/life balance
  • Enhancing the reputation of the business
  • Improving decision making or reducing risk

The relationship between my people and successful strategies was paramount in the success that Brunswick Garage had achieved. Creating a climate where people strived to achieve success and the motivation of individuals were crucial for me and central part of their involvement in our strategy. People are not like other resources; they influence strategy both through their competence but also through behavior both individually and collectively.

You can find out about Andy’s consultancy services by contacting: savvaautomotive.com

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