Your employees may be able to tell you a lot about your business you may not know. What do customers really think about your product or service? Are there more complaints than usual? What could be done to improve sales, marketing and customer service? It seems simple enough just to ask the people who work for you and expect an honest answer. But, due to the nature of the boss-employee relationship, things don’t always work that way. Below are four tips to nudge them toward sharing creative suggestions for growing the business.
Share the big picture. If employees don’t understand the financial state of your business, and what you’ve got planned for the future, it’s difficult for them to offer useful feedback. Take every opportunity to share information about the business, both successes and setbacks, so they have a better sense of how their knowledge and creativity might help spur growth.
Actively encourage participation. There are plenty of ways to encourage employees to share their ideas for improving the company. For example, have an open door policy, hold occasional brainstorming sessions outside of the workplace and put up a suggestion box. Make sure in doing these you emphasize the voluntary nature of your request.
Make it clear there’s no such thing as a bad idea. Employees are generally risk-averse. Most people fear looking stupid or having to stretch beyond their comfort zones and sharing an idea could mean they have to explain it, give a presentation or risk difficult questions on unfamiliar topics. Make it clear that, regardless of the outcome, there’s no penalty for sincerely offered ideas.
Reward your employees’ creativity. Whether an idea results in explosive growth or simply helps overcome a minor operational hurdle, people are more forthcoming when some type of reward is involved. Always start with a publicly delivered “thank you” to everyone who offers suggestions. You can also offer other low-cost rewards such as an extra day off, special notice at a staff meeting, a coffee shop or movie gift card, or a company hosted lunch at a restaurant.