There used to be considerable interest in what employees thought. But as the economy tightened up, downsizing and rightsizing occurred, with the inevitable result of cutting expenses, salaries, and even jobs. One obvious outcome of staff reductions is that employees concerned about keeping their jobs fear speaking up, alienating their boss or questioning the status quo, especially if the latter includes someone’s pet project or policy.
This puts entrepreneurs in a bind: You want to take appropriate risks but may be reluctant to do so because of economic realities. You want input from your employees, but you don’t want them to fear being reprimanded or dismissed if their ideas come across as negative or critical. You are aware that some innovative ideas and thoughts about positive change may be stifled due to this fear.
As the entrepreneur and head of your organisation, you need to create an atmosphere that allows and even encourages innovative thoughts about processes, policies, people and procedures. Here are five key points to keep in mind when dealing with employees.
1. Make sure senior management gets it.
Meet with your senior managers and emphasise the need for opening channels of communication. The need for gathering input from the people who are performing the tasks is crucial.
2. Encourage employees to question the status quo.
Don’t just pay lip service. Demonstrate that you want employee feedback. Be the first one to examine a process, policy, human capital allotment or procedure and raise a question about its functionality and effectiveness. In front of your employees, state that you are open to constructive suggestions that will improve the system, its efficiency, and its cost, even with fewer available resources.
3. Plan meetings specifically for challenging the status quo.
With praise, email, voice mail and even simple gifts, reward employees who come up with creative ideas.
4. Recognise employees when their ideas are implemented.
Make it a big deal and make sure everyone knows which individual or team was responsible for the innovation.
5. Create diverse groups to discuss ideas.
Include employees with differing perspectives, educational backgrounds, and experiences to share ideas and question the status quo.
Some entrepreneurs incorrectly assume that they are the only ones who can generate a new idea or approach. Many times that is true. But empowering others in the company to do the same will not only increase employee interest and motivation to perform at their peak, but it will also lead to a more successful organisation.