It seems pretty obvious that employees need
to know what their own jobs require -- their
roles, responsibilities and authority
levels. We don't expect people to do their
jobs effectively if they don't know what
they are supposed to be doing. However, one
area that people tend to ignore is how well
employees understand what OTHER PEOPLE DO
in their organizations. Why might that be
Recently, I was doing
some training in customer service and
defusing hostile customers for a fairly
large organization. A constant theme kept
emerging (and it's quite common). A customer
would call in with some sort of difficulty
or problem, and the person answering the
phone would transfer the caller to someone
else. Unfortunately, the next person taking
the call was not the right person, or was
unavailable, leaving the customer to leave
voice mail, or once again, get shuffled to
someone else. Often the frustrated customer
would end up calling the first person back
to holler at them.
How does this happen? Are
employees stupid? Or perhaps can't be
bothered? Probably not. They simply lack the
information they need to provide good
quality customer service to callers. And
what's the outcome? First, angry customers.
Second, stress and frustration on the part
of staff caught in this shuffle. Third, some
terrible inefficiencies for the organization
itself, which impacts the bottom line.
The problem is that we
don't educate staff in the "bigger picture".
In this case, that bigger picture relates to
what other people do, their various
expertise, and the relationship of other
employee's jobs to each other. Before we
talk about specific "fixes", consider this.
It's very rare that employees work is
independent of the work of other people in
their workplaces. These days, getting jobs
done has become more complicated, where the
ability to get something accomplished often
involves cooperation with others, or some
degree of teamwork. Customer service aside,
workplaces where people understand their own
jobs and the jobs of others (like how the
whole puzzle fits together) are going to be
more effective and more productive.
People Understand The Larger Puzzle
New employees should be
oriented and educated not just about their
own jobs, but about what other people do,
and who to talk to when faces with different
kinds of situations. They need to know who
has decision-making power, and who has
expertise they may need. That's far more
important than knowing where the washrooms
are (well, that's debatable!).
Workplaces are constantly
changing. Responsibilities change, and so do
job roles. Management should take an
active role in keeping employees up to date
about changes that affect not only their own
jobs, but the jobs and roles of others. This
is even more important in team based and
project based environments. Regular staff
meetings can be used to do this in an
ongoing way, and need not be time intensive.
Often, staff updates can take only a very
Here's the most important
part. And this applies to every employee.
Employees tend to hesitate about asking
too many questions, for fear of looking
stupid or being perceived as a nuisance.
They rely on the human resources department
or their supervisor to tell them what they
need to know. Unfortunately, supervisors
don't always know what employees need to
know, or haven't thought about it, and they
can't read minds. So, it's important that
employees take on responsibility for their
own understanding of what other people do.
Employees! Listen up! ASK! You can't do your
job well if you don't know your own role and
what other people do. You can't do your job
if you don't know where to refer a customer
with a particular problem.
Let's end this by listing
some things that people should know:
Who has authority to
make decisions about specific issues
(which people, which issues)?
Where does the
expertise lie to deal with particular
should be used to involve people who
need to be involved in a particular
When a particular
person who needs to be involved is
unavailable, is there a backup procedure
(someone else to contact)?
The nice part about all
this is that it isn't rocket science, but it
is neglected. Human resources, managers and
employees can all take responsibility and
make sure that employees know and understand
their own job responsibilities and roles,
and those of others who fit into the
completed "puzzle" of getting things done
effectively and efficiently.
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