Using employee ideas pays off

Quote of the Week:

"The world is full of willing people, some willing to work, the rest willing to let them."

— Robert Frost

Dear Dave: As a Rochester manager, I truly value the ideas and suggestions of my employees. Over the years, our company has saved money, become more efficient, and has become a better place to work, because of the great ideas from employees. If employee feedback and input is so valuable, why do so many employees from other companies tell me they are never heard or even asked if they have ideas? — P

Dear P: First, let me say that I applaud you for being a manager who listens to employees and tries to capitalize on their creativity. Second — as I always do — I have a lot to say about valuing the thinking of employees and why, often times, their ideas are never considered.


It’s a virtuous circle: Workers become more engaged when they see their ideas being used. And managers, seeing the impact of employees’ ideas, give employees more authority — which leads to more and better ideas. It’s not rocket surgery!

Squashed like a junebug

Good managers know frontline workers have better knowledge of the particularities of products, services, and processes than managers do. These employees are close to the work and they’re better positioned to spot problems and opportunities.

What often happens is, management will proudly state, "We want employee ideas, creativity, suggestions, and problem solving (harumph, yada yada)!" Then, everyone feels happy and thinks the company is great and truly cares about them as contributive, thinking people.

But, here is the clincher: The employees then see things that may be wrong, or can be improved, and come up with ideas. They then proudly go tell their manager about what they came up with and they hear something like this, "We kinda like the way things are, but, thank you very much." Worse, they may hear, "You’re paid to work and not to think!"

Then, the employees go back to their work, somewhat disheartened, a bit hurt, but most certainly convinced this whole spiel about using our ideas was a bogus, "feel good" sham. Employees talk to each other — yes, they do — and the talk becomes, "That’s the last time I’ll suggest anything."

Amit Ghosh is a local healthcare professional and Augsburg MBA student who believes management sets the example. Ghosh states, "Employees find it disingenuous when organizations solicit ideas and don’t implement them into practice. The inability of senior managers to 'walk -the-talk,' has been linked with employee dissatisfaction, poor performance and increase in turnover rate."

The idea system


Most employees have lots of ideas and would be thrilled to see them used. They don’t want to see their company go down the tube, so they take pride in contributing to the organization’s success. So, the most effective form of idea recognition is to implement their ideas and to give credit to the employees involved.

Submitting ideas should be simple, and the evaluation of suggestions should be quick and effective. Pushing decision making down to the front lines for as many ideas as possible leads to better decisions, faster implementation, and lower processing costs; it also frees up managers’ time.

All businesses need to be looking for ways to cut costs, improve customer service, and drive performance. It’s a jungle out there. Capturing employee suggestions and ideas engages and improves employee motivation, creating a more productive and satisfying work environment. Employee participation breeds buy-in and engagement.

For managers

Managers can make idea submission part of their meetings, employee reviews, or simply in everyday conversations with employees by asking them what they see going on, what nagging problems or improvement opportunities they see, and if they have any ideas for improvement.

Believe it or not, employees can think and have a lot to say. By being open and receptive to ideas, you allow everyone to get involved and thereby create a receptive atmosphere and culture for change, innovation, and continuous improvement.

The more people you gather ideas from, the more likelihood of finding the most creative solutions. Also, ongoing, meaningful rewards and recognition for ideas that are used provide an effective, low cost way of raising morale and encouraging higher levels of performance.

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