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Item 7: My Opinions Seem to Count

Item 7: My Opinions Seem to Count

The twelve key dimensions that describe great workgroups (part 8)

All employees want to feel that they are making significant contributions to their workplaces. The ways organizations hear and process employees' ideas will shape, to a large degree, whether or not they feel valued for their contributions.

The need for employees to feel valued -- to know that they really make a difference in their companies and organizations -- is one of the 12 key discoveries from a multiyear research effort by The Gallup Organization. Our objective was to identify the consistent dimensions of workplaces with high levels of four critical outcomes: employee retention, customer metrics, productivity, and profitability. The research identified 12 dimensions that consistently correlate with these four outcomes -- dimensions Gallup now uses to measure the health of a workplace. An associated research effort, in which Gallup studied more than 80,000 managers, focused on discovering what great managers do to create quality workplaces.

Item 7 is often referred to as employees' "internal stock price." It measures the sense of value that employees feel in their work and toward their organization. The degree to which a company's employees feel their opinions count is readily apparent to its customers. We have all encountered an employee who felt detached or insignificant, and we know the impact that employee had on us as customers.

If the ideas, instincts, and intelligence of a company's employees are its sustained competitive advantage, then employees' responses to Item 7 are of great importance. Nothing is more demoralizing to employees than being excluded from significant decisions -- decisions that affect their jobs. Great managers consult with employees regularly to make sure those close to the action have input into critical decisions. This does not mean that employees have the final say on the decisions that affect their jobs. It does mean that when employees' desires and managers' decisions differ, the best managers explain the rationale behind their decisions. These managers help employees to see the full scope of a decision and to understand the reasoning behind it. A straightforward explanation can build credibility and communication. Great managers never ask employees for their opinions and then decide to do the opposite without clearly explaining why.

Great ideas are the building blocks for increased efficiency and new product development. Great places to work, in which employees' opinions count, encourage great ideas to flow and be heard, and then be processed and refined. Not all ideas will be successfully implemented, but the process of refining ideas is still wonderfully productive: it builds employees' confidence in the company and shows them that their efforts can make the company better.

In next week's column, we explore Item 8 of 12: "The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important."

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