Workplace Democracy: What Is It and How Can You Create It?

There seems to be a new “hot topic” that many business owners are taking note of – workplace democracy. But what is it really and why should we care? Well, that’s what we aim to answer.

What is workplace democracy? It is when democratic practices are put into action in the workplace, like voting, debate and a participatory decision-making system. Or in other words, workplace democracy is when our employees feel like “owners”.

Why is workplace democracy important? Because it engages employees more and according to a 2018 Gallup poll,  53% of workers are not engaged in their job. And why should that matter? More engagement leads to earnings-per-share growth that is actually more than four times that of their competitors, says Gallup. On top of that, more engaged employees lead to better customer engagement, higher productivity, better retention, fewer accidents, and 21% higher profitability.

Let me guess, you now want us to share some workplace democracy examples so that you can start to implement this mindset in your company’s day to day operations. Well, let’s get started!

10 tips on how to create workplace democracy:

1. Be transparent.

Your employees will be happier and will be far more trusting if they are aware of what’s going on, even if it’s just sharing a sales win or positive customer reviews – keep them in the loop at all times.

Employee transparency in a workplace democracy

2. Gather feedback from your employees.

Create an open dialogue with your employees and them with you. On a regular basis, make sure you are asking your employees about their concerns, questions, ideas and thoughts. It doesn’t matter if what they have to say is a small matter or a new idea, everything needs to be brought to your attention so that you can handle the situation accordingly. Your employees will be much happier and will feel appreciated if you listen and act on what they have to say.

3. Don’t include a hierarchy – no department is more important than another.

It shouldn’t matter if the sales department is bringing in all the money. Why? Because it is no less important than marketing, accounting, human resources, or even reception. Without all your departments, your company just couldn’t function properly so make sure you’re treating each department equally and fairly.

4. Delegate responsibility.

Workplace democracy is all about delegating responsibility, actually that’s democracy in general. Be clear on who needs to accomplish what task so that everyone knows what they are responsible for and nothing falls between the cracks.

5. Hold employees responsible when things go wrong.

Naturally when you delegate responsibility, you have to hold that person responsible if something should go wrong. However, don’t let it become a public execution. Instead, talk with that employee privately as to avoid embarrassment.

6. Forgive failure.

Yes, you do need to hold people responsible, however, you also need to forgive failure if you want your employees to grow. When employees have the chance to fail gracefully, they will learn from their mistakes and will only be better for it going forward. This will create a bigger sense of loyalty to the company and happiness to keep doing their job and doing their job well.

Create workplace democracy at your company

7. Recognize employee achievement and success.

When an employee achieves something wonderful, don’t hide it. Be sure to share his/her success with everyone, this will engage them more and will make them feel like a part of something wonderful. Whether you mention their success at a team meeting, send an email, post on a bulletin board, share on social media, or throw a party, just make sure you are *doing* something. When an employee sees their co-worker receiving praise and recognition, they will work to get that same attention.

8. Offer more flexibility and freedom.

Let your employees go home earlier or come in a little later. Let your employees work from home some days. Offer a casual dress day once a month or on a set weekly basis, like a Friday. As long as your employees are getting the job done and are not abusing their freedom, everyone is happy across the board. Just make sure everything is clearly written out in your employee handbook so you can ensure no one is taking advantage of company perks.

9. Leadership should be set at all levels.

In order to keep things moving efficiently you need leadership from the very top to the very bottom. It isn’t about having power but rather having someone in charge when the need arises.

10. Strict policies should be held at a minimum.

Make sure your company has principles everyone adheres to, however ensure they’re flexible so that decisions can be made on a case-by-case basis. You need to look at what makes sense and not just what the principle or policy lay out.  

When you implement workplace democracy at your company, you are creating a company culture that works for everyone.

Easily create workplace democracy with an employee app:

Connecteam's employee engagement software

Communication! You must have an open line of communication if you want to boost productivity, improve morale, and lower your employee turnover rate. Employees should be able to come to you with any concern, bright ideas, and everything in-between. They expect the same from you as well and on a regular basis.

An employee app allows you to have an open door policy across the board. Managers can instantly send a company announcement, an update, employee of the month celebrations, birthday and anniversary wishes, and more. And employees can reach management on any matter, no matter how big or small, which leads us to our next point.

Gain feedback. As a business owner, you are constantly looking for ways to better your company – whether it’s a new product, a marketing strategy, how to boost morale, how to keep customers happy, and so on. You’re always on the hunt and your employees are your best asset to do so. Make it a habit to ask your employees their feedback on anything and everything.

An annual review just isn’t enough, use an employee app daily, weekly or monthly to dish out surveys. Have a readily available suggestion box that anyone can use and on any matter.

Connecteam's survey and suggestion box functions on their employee app

Boost employee engagement. Using an employee app doesn’t just help streamline communication and make it easier to gain feedback, it also helps boost employee engagement. What’s the easiest way to boost employee engagement with an employee app? Send updates to keep all employees up to date on company matters, share with them a new campaign before they see it elsewhere (you don’t want them to hear something about the company from another source – where it’s the closing of a factory, a merger, or an exciting new product, your employees should hear it from you first).

Transparency. Build trust and boost employee engagement even more when you are transparent with your employees on all company matters. For example, share the company KPI goals and the status of each one, share the company policies (like the salary), and share the contact information for management so that “lower” employees feel that the “top dogs” are reachable.

In addition, send updates on company news, employee recognition, birthday wishes, company anniversaries, and so on. It is all about being transparent, and through an employee app, you instantly know who read your message and who didn’t.

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