Mark Robilliard

SmartCompany /

There are value-add opportunities that we normally don’t see. But scratch the surface, and you’ll see the value seeping out of the woodwork.

Do your employees value add?

Today is a very important day. You see today is my daughter’s fifth birthday and of course she has been counting down the “sleeps” for what seems like a very long time.

It would be all too easy, as an adult, to miss what is going on in her world right now. After all, we’ve “been there and done that” haven’t we?

Last week I attended a very pleasant soiree for the SmartCompany bloggers, which was great as I was able to meet some of the real writers out there. Anyway, one of them, who shall remain anonymous, suggested that I talk about employee value-add, or at least that’s what I’m calling it.

Their point was that organisations are generally not that good at harnessing the potential of their employees, and particularly those that work out of the limelight. This got me thinking about some examples I have witnessed where this value-add potential was tapped by the organisation.

In each of the following examples, there is a common climatic theme in that organisation – the employees were asked to, and expected to, come up with ideas for improvement. No-one cared whether these were called “innovation” or “invention”, involved reducing expenses, using assets more efficiently, reducing debt or increasing income – they were all just improvements.

But it was much more than a glorified suggestion box approach. The improvements had to be well researched and thought out (to an initial point anyway) and exhibit business savvy. A business coach (internal) might be used to help develop the idea and increase the business acumen if necessary. Sometimes a team approach was more appropriate.

But the main thing was that the idea had to be presented formally by the employee (and team if appropriate) to the CEO and the CFO, and sometimes there were additional directors. This presentation was taken very seriously by the senior execs on the basis that no-one knew when the next brilliant “improvement” might appear before them.

And sometimes, even when an “improvement” may not be a goer in total, there could well be some element of it that was beneficial, and that was OK too. The senior execs also realised the tremendous development opportunity they were providing and ensured that they encouraged people to keep trying.

The employees were not paid extra and much of the work was done in their own time – they were volunteers and invariably felt very rewarded. Apart from the huge opportunity to speak personally to the senior execs, the presenters were often invited to share a meal with them and were certainly recognised personally if the improvement was implemented.

Some value-adding projects from the murky recesses of my memory:

  1. A team member (not the leader) from the mail room was in a multi-discipline admin team looking at cost-savings in their division. By systemising the way the various mail and courier systems were being used, he saved the organisation something like $70,000 a year. He knew what needed to be done but no-one had ever asked.
  2. One team asked to look at corporate personality, came up with an additional corporate attribute that they felt was missing – integrity. They did this notwithstanding that considerable sums had recently been spent on coming up with the existing attributes. Value added? Not as financially obvious perhaps, but the employees generally felt a greater sense of ownership of the attributes and therefore increased engagement throughout the company.
  3. An employee came up with a product designed for a newly identified niche market. The product was a re-development of an existing product and gave the company first mover advantage into a multi-million dollar market.
  4. The operational employees came up with an improved safety system in a mining environment. Implementation cost was negligible and safety awareness and safety behaviours improved significantly.
  5. An operational team was dissatisfied with their weekly meeting process. The manager, who was always the “chair” and grumbled that no-one participated except the same old few, in a flash of brilliance asked the team to develop and implement a new process, within a few corporate guidelines he gave them. Result? The “chair” role and other roles were shared, giving each team member valuable public speaking and meeting management opportunities (background support provided). Cost – nil. Now the meetings happen whether the manager can make it or not. They also implemented the infamous two minute stand-up meeting where everyone quickly huddles in a corner, hears some news and then goes back to work.
  6. A team decided that the money spent on the annual “client fun day” (insert golf, racing, yachting etc) would be better spent on a community project. They selected a worthwhile charity and used the funds and their time to build and decorate a new extension to the facility. This was real team building – and they involved some clients too.
  7. What could you do to notice what is going in your employee’s world right now?

Next week: Being ripped off by your employees, big time – ouch.

Until then, happy birthday darling. Now, how many sleeps ‘til Christmas?


Mark Robilliard and business partners Peter Frampton and Carmen Mettler started a journey to find a new way for anyone to ‘get accounting’ and use it in their job and life to create value. Accounting Comes Alive was born and now provides workshops all over the world using their unique and friendly Colour Accounting™ learning system that really does work, for everyone.


To read more Mark Robilliard blogs, click here.




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