A key tenet of the Kaizen philosophy is that every employee should be engaged in, and is responsible for, process improvement. This stems from the principle that nobody understands a process or experience as well as the people doing them. Yet, we sometimes neuter their ability to make change as soon as the mighty dollar is involved.
Which is strange.
We let staff have discretion over their time, potentially spilling hundreds of dollars in time per week down the metaphorical drain, but when it comes to spending a dime everything needs approval and justification. This is waste (or Muda in Kaizen terms).
It’s not just illogical, it’s completely disempowering. Not to mention the time spent justifying decision making often costs more to the business than if the idea was an instant failure.
Let’s stop now.
What I’m proposing is:
You give everyone in your organisation a modest but completely discretionary budget.
Crazy smart, or just crazy?
It’s simple. To explain it in biblical terms:
- Empowering leadership begets psychological empowerment (Zhang, 20101)
- Psychological empowerment begets employee engagement (Gettha and Mampilly, 20142)
- Employee engagement begets better business outcomes (including effectiveness and profitability) (Gallup, 20173)
And as if that wasn’t enough:
- Psychological empowerment begets intrinsic motivation and creative process engagement (Zhang, 20101)
- Intrinsic motivation and creative process engagement beget employee creativity (Zhang, 20101)
- Employee creativity can fundamentally contribute to organizational innovation, effectiveness, and survival (Amabile, 1996; Shalley, Zhou, & Oldham, 20044)
That’s not to mention the benefits of faster decision making and that your employees probably know how to spend a small sum on operational effectiveness than you do.
Simply put, engaged employees produce better business outcomes than other employees do — across industries, company sizes and nationalities, and in good economic times and bad.Gallup, 2017
How to go about it
Introduce the initiative at your next team meeting. Let your team know they will have a completely discretionary budget to spend on whatever they want with the purpose of helping them do their job. No tricks. No traps. No judgement.
As a minimum, you will probably need a few conditions without making it too complicated:
- All expenditure must be for business purposes and must be tax deductible to the business.
- Nothing considered a fringe benefit would be acceptable.
- No alcohol.
Beyond these rules, the purpose is to help them become more effective at their role. Squander your budget, and you squander an opportunity to be more effective. That, as job performance always is, will be subject to review.
It needs to be enough to be meaningful. I’d suggest $50 per month, per staff member, as a minimum. Both monthly and annual budgets have pros and cons, with annual making more sense at higher levels. A flat minimum wouldn’t be a bad way to start, although at its best the amount should align to the responsibilities given.
Some ideas for how your team spend it could include:
- Client gifts – Had an idea for something special that would make their day? Just get it.
- Software – Want some software that’ll save you time? Don’t waste time wondering, just get it.
- Team booster –Advice press getting you down? Muffins for everyone!
- Reward a superhero – Had a team member been pushing it hard? Movie tickets and the afternoon off!
- Something for the office – Old binding machine a nightmare? Just get it a new one.
- Delegate – Could this be done on Fiverr? Just do it! (Privacy training applies!)
Just do it!
So, give this a try or pass this article on to someone who can.
What’s the worst that can happen? Even if the choice of expenditure is suboptimal (and some even a complete waste), at least you didn’t waste a stack of time talking about it, and you’ll get it back through more empowered employees.
Sometimes success isn’t about making the right decision, it’s more about making some decision.Robin S. Sharma
1Zhang, X. (2010), “Linking empowering leadership and employee creativity: the influence of psychological empowerment, intrinsic motivation, and creative process engagement”, Development and Learning in Organizations, Vol. 24 No. 5.
2Geetha, Jose & Sebastian Rupert Mampilly, 2014. “Psychological Empowerment as a Predictor of Employee Engagement: An Empirical Attestation,” Global Business Review, International Management Institute, vol. 15(1), pages 93-104, March.
3Harter, Jim & Mann, Annamarie, 2017, “The Right Culture: Not Just About Employee Satisfaction”, Workplace, Gallup, 12 April 2017.
4Shalley, C. E., Zhou, J., & Oldman, G. R. 2004. The effects of personal and contextual characteristics on creativity: Where should we go from here? Journal of Management, 30: 933–958 cited in Zhang, X. (2010), “Linking empowering leadership and employee creativity: the influence of psychological empowerment, intrinsic motivation, and creative process engagement”, Development and Learning in Organizations, Vol. 24 No. 5.
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