“I wish the staff would just do their job and stop talking about how things could work better.”
“I don’t understand why some people think they know so much.”
“These Suggestion Box ideas are mostly negative, and some don’t even have anything to do with the employee’s department.”
Hopefully these examples are nothing more than just that – examples, and that you’re not hearing them from your managers. Unfortunately, though, they’re more common than you might think. Here are some basic, yet valuable, tips on how to not only receive suggestions, but act on them, for the benefit of all.
Anyone can put a Suggestion Box by the water cooler in the break room. Ask many employees, and they’ll tell you that cardboard box might as well be a black hole. Studies indicate only about one in five workers feel their opinions really matter. Come up with simple, easy, and believable ways to attract suggestions. And have a formal, published plan (say, on that break room bulletin board, sans any other dated material, please) on how those suggestions will be reviewed. Ideas come either random or solicited; have a plan for both.
Everything is Fair Game
Try to avoid the over-clichéd “there are no bad ideas,” but realize even those deemed foolish or absurd at first can still flourish into game changers. Open mindedness if far more elusive than we give ourselves credit for, so strive to always find the strengths and opportunities in an idea before even one tiny negative thought is spoken.
Tell Them What You’re Looking For
While nothing is off limits, employees will better respond to an area of focus, particularly if it affects their work own environment. Give teams or divisions a specific topic, or area of the business. “How can we save money in our Finishing Department?” is more than adequate. Just make sure the intent is to improve the business in a fashion that parallels your goals and mission.
At the end of the day, know that employees provide the best suggestions when they respect and admire their manager, not the company. HR professionals know they must also train managers on how to solicit suggestions, and more importantly, how to enable them to benefit the company. So, listen, learn, and act!