Too often, CEOs and business owners running companies don’t utilize the brainpower and talents that reside within the organization. As a result, they get limited thinking.
Whatever the business, I’m convinced that the people holding the shovel, working the end of the assembly line or inputting data at a keyboard often have splendid ideas on how to do things better. With their first-hand experience, they have ideas for better processes, better outcomes and better ways to cut costs for both customers and companies. The tragedy is, all too often these great ideas never get aired.
Without a thriving corporate culture that encourages employee contributions, your workforce won’t feel it’s OK to speak up. You’ll never hear about the one great idea that might be a game-changer, or at least result in significant time- or cost-savings. In this era of “compete or die,” that’s a resource too precious to squander.
So how do you go about soliciting those great ideas? After communicating to employees that their ideas are welcome, here are some concrete follow-up action steps:
Direct suggestions toward desired outcome
Direct employee suggestions toward an area where you know improvement is most needed. Announce a “theme of the month,” focused on enhancing customer service, improving safety, ways to cut expenses, etc. You’ll get specific, rather than general responses. Hopefully, these ideas can be implemented without much difficulty.
Employee input has more value if they know what they’re talking about. Wherever possible, and within appropriate parameters, share information about the company’s fiscal condition, long-range goals and other related matters. Ask employees to keep this information in mind when coming up with helpful ideas.
Have employees back up their ideas
To keep suggestions grounded in reality, ask employees to offer some documentation showing why their idea is a good one. As part of the process, have them estimate how much money their idea will save, how much revenue can be generated and how much time can be reduced in the process. Get people thinking about the practical aspects of their ideas.
Put a deadline on suggestions
Nothing focuses the mind like a hard deadline. Knowing they have a limited-time frame, employees are more likely to concentrate on putting forth their best ideas, rather than just anything that comes to mind. Make clear you’re looking for quality, rather than quantity.
Reward the best
Obviously, there should be something in it for employees who take time to submit ideas. Each month, pick the best one or two suggestions and publicly recognize and reward the people who came up with them. That should generate even more great ideas in the months to come.
CEOs and business owners who join Catapult Groups are always looking for new ideas to grow their business. Learn more about how you can benefit from being a Catapults Group member.