Remember how every piece of clothing you bought had a little piece of paper in a pocket that said, "Inspected by No. 5," or whatever? While anonymous and sort of weird -- presumably the result of some strange regulation of the apparel trade -- it gave you at least a tenuous connection to the human beings who actually were making your clothes.
An intriguing article on Inc.'s web site this week raises this idea again and elevates it to a new level: What if employees all signed their work? Is this an idea that actually could work in some form to more actively engage employees in their tasks and, in turn, intrigue and attract consumers?
"Sort of like bylines on articles or employee-signed presentations, the Dodd-Frank mandate that CEOs attest to financial statements, the requirement that politicians 'approve this message' when they buy advertising," wrote Jeffrey Pfeffer in Inc.'s The Company Ethicist feature, "the very act of signing something creates a stronger psychological link between an individual's identity and their work. This connection will make them take the work and its integrity much more seriously."
Pfeffer cited the example of Soichiro Honda, who once said during a presentation that one of the reasons his cars were of higher quality was that when they broke down, people were cursing him and his name.
Of course, having employees physically "sign their work" is impossible in many businesses. But in many others, it's not. And even where a real signature is impractical, maybe it would be an encouragement and incentive to employees if there were some other way for them to personalize their output -- to leave their initials on that idea on the PowerPoint presentation, for instance.
Or put a little business card in the pocket of the next shirt you buy.
We're wondering if any of you are intrigued by this idea as well and have notions about how it actually could take shape. Let us know.