By Julia Ivy, PhD
Companies can find untapped value in their employees when working to solve current challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. This involves utilizing a Make Your Case initiative that allows employees to apply their unused skillsets and connections in opening up new ways for their companies to operate.
Surprisingly, employers don’t often care to know about or think to utilize the stockpile of unused resources their employees bring. They tend to view skills outside of their employees’ job descriptions as irrelevant to the scope of normal business operations. It’s possible that employers simply don’t see the value that such extraneous abilities or connections can generate.
But given the shockwaves reverberating from the market disruption that’s taking place, many normal business models are no longer operational, and new models must emerge. Companies would benefit from turning to the untapped expertise of their multidimensional employees for new ideas through Make Your Case solutions to the rising challenges.
For example, in this unprecedented shelter-in-place environment, consider the value inherent in the information sharing taking place through social media. Networks of people are utilizing their own knowledge and past experiences to advise others on meeting the challenge of remaining isolated in their homes. People share their experiences of living through hurricanes, surviving in post-war Kosovo, and living in a remote outpost in Alaska, for example, as tried-and-true ideas for working and remaining connected in difficult circumstances. The social media forum is a plethora of innovative solutions not only for connecting with co-workers and customers while sheltering in the place, but also remaining socially connected — think virtual happy hours.
Compare the diverse and innovative social media postings with some of the messaging coming from companies during this pandemic. The emails and posts coming from the business sector lack variety, color and the ability to engage. Companies regularly communicate that they are aware of the hardships to customers, vendors and employees during this time. Yet, besides possible changes in delivery methods or product discounts, the companies’ information lacks flavor and innovation.
Yet many of the same people with clever ideas on social media also work for companies who could use some creativity to their approach. These very people have experience in dealing with work disruptions or isolation, and they’ve accumulated amazing personal, social, and professional capital that can be utilized by their companies in their organizational recalibration.
Companies often acknowledge the importance of diversity. Yet, they tend to overlook opportunities to explore the diversity of experiences and interests that employees bring beyond their work responsibilities. But involving more diverse ideas will help in responding to this crisis. Companies will benefit from understanding that the diversity of multidimensional employees’ perspectives can be of enormous value to them.
In Make Your Case initiatives, companies invite employees to utilize their multidimensional core and contribute their original perspectives on challenges that the company currently faces. The process is similar to design thinking, with a different emphasis for idea creation. Instead of brainstorming a creative new idea, employees reference their multidimensional experiences outside of work and employ them in a proposed solution.
The Make Your Case process involves:
1. Outline the idea. Employees initially summarize their idea through the filter of the company’s case challenge to ensure their understanding of the challenge and its context. Make Your Case company reviewers make sure the idea is grounded in the appropriate context before inviting authors to continue.
2. Describe applicability of the solution. The authors illustrate their idea with a personal story of how the solution worked in other settings. As their ideas come from outside the work setting, it’s important to treat the Make Your Case solution as a proposal that may need more specifics.
3. Share ideas for implementation. Using what they know of the company, the authors indicate which parts of their proposed solution can be implemented immediately, and which will need additional resources. Company reviewers who are now vested in the idea will likely help facilitate finding resources and funding to expedite implementation of the solution.
4. Fine-tune specifics. Together with company reviewers, the authors tailor specifics of their solution to the company challenge. This includes providing an action plan of how the solution will be carried out.
Make Your Case initiatives engage employees by inviting them to demonstrate their unique multidimensional cores. By providing their innovative solutions and helping to implement them in a way that addresses a pressing challenge, employees are given an opportunity to craft their own edge within the company.
The company benefits from a pipeline of solutions that have been tested in other contexts and tailored to the reality of this particular challenge.