How Much Do Your Employees Know About Your Business?

December 14th, 2010 by Rob Berman Leave a reply »

Ladder of Knowledgephoto © 2006 degreezero2000 | more info (via: Wylio)
Owners and senior managers often comment that their employees do not know enough about their business.  Is it because the owner or senior managers do not share or that the employees do not care?

I tested this theory with a client.  I led a series of exercises with the employees while the owner was absent from the meetings. We met after the business closed and provided dinner for the employees.

Introduction for Employees

The employees were briefed with these points:

  • Everyone wants to see the business grow and prosper.
  • You are closest to the business and can offer excellent opinions about the business.
  • We are going to work on several exercises over the next couple of weeks.

The Exercises

The employees participated as a group in seven exercises. The questions we discussed are:

1.      Tell me what businesses the company is in and who are the customers?

2.      What percentage of the company’s revenue is derived from each business?

3.      What percentage of the company’s profit is derived from each business?

4.      What new businesses should the company enter in the next two years?

5.      What businesses should the company exit in the next two years?

6.      How should the percentage of revenues from each business change over the next two years?

7.      How should the percentage of profits from each business change over the next two years?

The Result:

The owner was amazed when I presented her with the findings.  The findings helped inform our joint SWOT Analysis session with the owner.

The Takeaway

Don’t assume the level of understanding your employees have about your business.  Engage them in the process to learn their level of knowledge and provide additional knowledge, as necessary.

That is my experience.  How about you?  Please comment below.

1.      Would you say your employees know too little, too much or just enough about your business?

2.      What other exercises would you add to the list above?

3.      How have you engaged your employees?

If you would like to contact me, you may do so by visiting my LinkedIn page, following me on Twitter,  or e-mailing me at rcberman2 (at) yahoo.com.

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24 comments

  1. Paul Novak says:

    Good points Rob. I think I worked for one company in my entire life that actually put some emphasis on educating their employees in order to make them better employees. It’s no coincidence this was a period where I learned more about my then career than any other time, except perhaps when I began my own business. I think its also no coincidence that since I was the only one to take full advantage of what was offered, I pulling the highest salary;)

  2. Excellent exercise and I’m certain that it provided valuable insight for the business owners. Not having them present was so wise. As for additional questions, I might ask “If you were a customer, what would you like to see?”.

  3. This is where the concept of teamwork is effective from both the employer’s perspective and the employee’s perspective. If they truly work together as a team, with support and appreciation, everyone at every level in a company will be working together towards a common goal and they will all know WHAT that goal is.

    Great post.

  4. Susan Oakes says:

    Good questions Rob and it is easy when you are immersed with the business to assume your employees have the same knowledge.

    At my last company we gave the employees briefing on any marketing initiatives. One question I would add for the major brands of a company is What makes this brand stand out from the competitors?

  5. Another great post Rob! I am awed by leaders who can tap into the potential of every single employee to create “greatness”. The one question I would add to ask each employee is “what strengths do you bring to the company goals?”. I believe that if leaders understand and validate their employees strengths, that a unique common ground can be evoked and illuminated.

  6. Also a sole proprietor, but happy to see you advocating for employer-employee communication. One of the saddest things about the current business climate in the U.S. is that, when having to make hard decisions to keep the business alive, many employers seem to be closing ranks rather than letting their employees know what’s coming. Don’t have to tell everything you know, but who knows what could be turned around with more employee input rather than less?

  7. Very helpful this post. I fully agree. I suggest you write the next post about how explain this to the employeers! 🙂

  8. Good questions and exercise Rob. Employees need to be involved and want to contribute to the success of the company. If they don’t know anything about it their job will just be routine. However, the most important thing in a situation like that is that the owner is a leader and can motivate them. But it doesn’t sound like that. So maybe she can become an enthusiastic manager instead.

    • Rob Berman says:

      Catarina:

      She was not a leader. Enthusiastic she was. However, she really could not manage well. I spent a lot time lining up what she should do with her employees.

      Rob

  9. This is not a post I can really comment on since I’m a sole proprietor, but I do hire freelancers in times of stress to help with the load. Still, this post was well-thought out and should help many people. congratulations on gaining the clients trust. Very impressive.

  10. These are great questions and a great exercise. Many companies like to keep their employees in the dark — but that’s foolish because employees can be your most important brand advocates — but they need to be informed about the company’s business.

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