Most companies tout an open door policy, meant to encourage employees to voice their concerns and feedback in the workplace. Even so, employees are often afraid of being candid due to the fear of repercussions.
Companies usually benefit from listening to their employees, especially if they are on the front line and have direct interaction with customers. When employees choose to keep their feelings to themselves, or communicate their thoughts only to their peers, companies can miss out on learning about new ways to serve customers or make operational improvements.
Leadership can encourage employees to voice their concerns by:
1. Instituting a company wide policy that rewards employees for making suggestions or voicing their concerns.
The policy should include clear guidelines on who the employee should go to; what to do if that person does not take action; safeguard to ensure that there are no repercussions; as well as include a recognition program designed to reward employees for their recommendations (especially those that save the company money, improve the quality of life, and/or increase profits.) But, make no mistake, the policy should also be sure to focus on inner incentives - reinforcing the values that encompass the company's energetic make-up.
2. Creating a work environment where sharing is the norm.
This could include weekly brainstorming sessions, a daily sharing hour, internal communications focused on employee suggestions, or lunch and learns.
3. Developing a company intranet site for employees to share their ideas.
Encourage employees to contribute to the site. Allow posts to be made anonymously at the option of the employee. Create a think tank where ideas can develop on a synergistic level.
4. Making it a habit to interact with employees on a casual basis.
Rotate going to breakfast or lunch with employees that represent every department within the company. Make sure that everyone, regardless of their position at the company, is included. Ask questions and listen to what they have to say. Ensure that everyone has a positive experience as a result of speaking with you. Encourage other managers to do the same.
5. Surveying employees throughout the year.
Ensure that responses are kept anonymous, unless the employee wants to reveal his or her name. Communicate the results of the survey, company wide, and publicly recognize ideas worth pursuing.
6. Stealing an idea from the Ritz Carlton – have a daily “huddle.”
Include people from every area of the company. Encourage open discussions on what is working, what is not, good and bad customer experiences, and anything else participants are willing to share.
To be successful, rules should be put in place to make certain that sharing of ideas stays focused and progressive.
For example, you might have a time limit on how long a person can talk, limitations on how frequently the same subject can be addressed, or a procedure on how to make a recommendation – whatever makes sense to your particular company, as long as the rules do not inhibit people from expressing themselves.
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