Walk Them Downstream: Showing Your Employees They Make a Difference

Many employees want to change the world?? or at least know that their job makes a difference. Wanting to know that their job has an impact?? whether it is on the product, the customer, the environment, or society?? is becoming an increasingly more important issue. Unfortunately, in large corporations many workers don’t get the opportunity to see the impact of their work. This can lead to lower productivity, decreased employee morale, and eventually may even cause employee retention problems. Smart managers continuously look for ways to engage and enhance their employees’ roles at their company so that they don’t have a reason?? today or tomorrow?? to move over to a competitor. Smart managers help employees see the impact of their work by doing what I call “walking them downstream.” Walking employees downstream is relatively easy to do, and it almost always has an immediate and dramatic impact. Employees who want to “change the world” need to visit the world to see the impact of their work! Here are some ideas on how to take your employees “downstream”:

  • Show them their work makes a difference by “walking them” upstream from their jobs. This means showing them where the “raw materials” that they work on come from. Next, walk them downstream, which means showing them what happens to the “product” they produce after they are finished with it. An actual visit might be supplemented with statistics or pictures that show them the impact of their work.
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  • Let them talk to the customers and ask them about how the product makes a difference.
  • Even if they only work on a small part of a product, let them hold or use the finished product or see others use it.
  • Give them a customer list so they know who uses or buys the product.
  • Let them sit in on a sales call with a satisfied customer in order to understand what potential customers need in the product or service.
  • Provide employees with information on how the company is environmentally conscious and how it helps the underprivileged and those in need.
  • Let employees read testimonials and articles written about the product and the firm.
  • Make employees aware of awards that the company wins.
  • Provide employees with materials that they can take home in order to show their family and friends what a great product they produce and what a great company they work for.

Conclusion Employees today are more and more conscious about what they can tell others about where they work and what they do. Providing top candidates and valued employees with the upstream and downstream views from their jobs arms them with stories they can tell their friends, family, and industry peers?? some of whom might be potential hires. Walking employees downstream can bring new life to employee referral programs, aid in retaining top performers, and improve the overall employment brand associated with your company.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on staging.ere.net. He lives in Pacifica, California.



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