Some would argue that this title should read Employee Empowerment. They would be correct, but I thought a few carefully selected words would also capture an audience.

I worked for an organisation many years ago and being part of the Organisational Development team, one of the strategic projects on our roadmap was transformation. After interactions with a sample of staff from different levels in the organisation we had a few options on the table on how to approach this project, when someone in the team had this brainwave – let’s include staff in the transformation process, where they can help us carve and create their future. Our belief was and mine still is that people support what they create.

Yes, I know you want to know what we did.

We hosted workshops at offices around the country unpacking values. Every staff member was invited and contributed even if they were just present. Think about it. Our value system dictates our behaviour, who we date, who we end up spending the rest of our lives, our friends and the company that we work for, where we spend most of our time sharing our knowledge, skills and expertise. We need to be happy in this environment. We need to be motivated, inspired, and enabled. We need leaders who recognize our potential and lead us so that we are encouraged to build and be part of an inclusive culture. There are some people who can turn a blind eye to things like corruption and unfairness because they take home a fat cheque every month or are waiting for a bonus. That talks to their value system.

Our staff listed their values and when we took all those “brown papers” (yes, I know you are reading about the brown paper exercise and thinking, “Yes, got the t-shirt”) and collated them, can you believe we ended up with five values that spoke to every employee’s contribution. An example of how we arrived at these values is as follows. Some people said honesty, others said be fair to me and many listed be open and direct. So, we pulled out the reliable thesaurus and after a few discussions decided we would go with “Honesty”. We followed this process for all the values and when we shared the final product, it was a goosebumps and tissues moment. We had the original lists with employees’ handwriting on it all over the venue. You could hear the pride and delight as employees would see their contribution and say “Look, there’s mine”. So yes, employees were involved in crafting the values instead of the leadership team going off on a strategic offsite with an external consulting company and coming up with what is trending out there.

That exercise changed the face of our organisation. When I meet some of my ex-colleagues, we always talk about the “good old days” basking in our achievements and how we literally jumped out of bed to get work and give our best for “our company”. I have yet to see another organisation be so bold and get their employees involved in creating the future. Try it and see the results speak for themselves. You will be part of an inclusive culture with employees that are delighted to: