Empower Frontline Workers Eliminate Silos Create Stakeholder Value

frontline workers can get rid of silos, but leaders must empower them. Trained and empowered workers create value and work well outside silos. Still, firms design payment and benefits plans that favor silos. They create narrow goals which breed inward focus and birth silos.

Reward systems can be silo-generating, too. Leaders get stock options based on short-term gains. So, they look at the next quarter’s results even when that’s not best for the long term. Firms should reward individual performances, but only in harmony with the total company’s results.

Leaders must empower frontline workers
Leaders must empower frontline workers

Successful firms need cohesive teams to function well. That’s why it is crucial that mangers ensure they remove silos and choose broad, shared goals. Each employee should know she works for the firm to delight customers; her department’s goals are secondary to delighting the customer. Employees in a firm, for-profit or nonprofit should heed Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 12:16: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”

Have you been fed up when you call a firm’s (Cogeco, Bell Canada, Manulife) customer service and the employee passes you to different sections for a simple matter?  These firms do not hire, train, and reward the right frontline workers. They don’t give them suitable, rational authority to do their jobs. So, these employees operate in silos!

Empower Frontline Workers  

Leaders must empower frontline workers by giving them enough authority to carry out day-to-day tasks and achieve the firm’s mission. Thus, if I call Cogeco’s customer service for a routine matter about my bill that should be a simple, quick matter. But, today, I must press the correct number on the keypad, wait 20 or more minutes, and then the person answering transfers me to another section. There, I wait a further 20 minutes for my routine issue. The firm should train the first person, and she should be part of a shared reward system with others who handle customers.

Though frontline workers might appear to be at the lowest level in the firm, they handle vital matters affecting the firm’s future. They speak to the customer, and as the late Peter Drucker said, “… Business is a customer.” Frontline workers will cause customers to stop supporting the firm by their dealings. Many firms realize this and ask the customer to take a survey after speaking with customer service.

Tools (Just-in-Time, Lean) exist to raise productivity and quality to create value for stakeholders. Leaders should train frontline workers with the proper tools. They have varied nuances, but each tool has three main uses. First, they delight customers. Second, they create value for stakeholders. Third, they improve quality and reduce costs. Frontline workers should know the firm’s value creation platform, and supply chain. 

Frontline Workers Key To Customer Satisfaction

These workers must realize they have to get products out on time and handle customers’ complaints as they get them. Temptations exist to cut corners for fast product shipments. So, too, the wish to answer questions without proper research. Workers must know they must never yield to shortcuts, but uphold excellence. They must do what’s right, never what’s easy.

It is vital leaders avoid the dumb decisions below that later harm the firm’s brand and destroy customer and stakeholders’ value:

  1. Ignore people issues: Listen, hear, and understand people’s concerns, complaints, suggestions. You can’t be “too busy” to deal with any people issue, such as compensation, vacation, product quality, delivery, time-off requests. 
  2. Try to control costs: You can’t control costs; learn to control cost drivers. Sometimes leaders look at final costs and complain about rapidly rising costs, instead of looking at their causes—their drivers. 
  3. Send out inferior product: The majority of unhappy customers do not complain, they go elsewhere. Take time to fix issues. Don’t ship sub standard products or try to persuade customers to accept them. 
  4. Cut corners to “save” money: What are savings? You don’t “save” when you cut corners. This attitude could be a large expense in lost sales and damaged reputation. 
  5. Assume the future will resemble the past: Don’t live in the past and assume customers will accept what you did yesterday. Learn how to satisfy customers today—keep learning.
  6. Ignore opportunity costs of decisions: Decisions have an opportunity cost—the alternative you can’t do because of the today’s commitment. Be conscious of options you choose to ignore when you decide. 

© 2019 Michel A. Bell


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Michel A. Bell

Michel A. Bell is a former senior business executive, author of seven books — including his first children's book published in 2022 — speaker, and adjunct professor of business administration at Briercrest College and Seminary. Michel is a Fellow of the Chartered Certified Accountants (UK), holds a Masters of Science in management degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Doctor of Business Administration honoris causa from Briercrest College and Seminary. He is founder and president of Managing God's Money™ and Stewarding God's Resources.

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