The best ideas that drive business can come from the rank-and-file. Here’s how you can foster feedback for growth.
Presumably you hired a slew of smart people. But are you making the most of your employees’ expertise and creativity in order to grow your business? Companies that rely on top-down thinking may do well enough, but why limit the pool of ideas? Success comes from all manner of places, and encouraging anyone and everyone in your organization to offer direct feedback gives your employees a bigger stake in the company’s success. It just makes good business sense.
Granted, you want something more substantive than Hawaiian Shirt Fridays, so be patient. Good ideas that spur business growth don’t happen overnight. In his article at Small Business Computing, Joe Taylor outlines five steps sprinkled with expert advice on how you can encourage effective employee feedback.
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How to Encourage Effective Employee Feedback
1. Apply structure
David Hassell’s company, 15Five, designs employee-feedback software. His first rule of fostering good feedback is to apply a structured method for gathering ideas and staying on top of company issues as they develop. “If you leave this to chance, you risk not getting the feedback until it’s too late for you to act on it,” said Hassell.
2. Standardize updates
Institute a simple, 15 minute weekly status update. Employees may take a bit of time getting used to this, but ultimately it acts as a brainstorming opportunity and generates creativity and ideas once they’re comfortable with the process. Successful companies such as Bain & Company and Patagonia use similar methods.
3. Schedule check-in reminders
Again, structure is the key. Weekly reminders or quarterly surveys provide a predictable routine that ensures employee participation. Moreover, the constant, honest communication helps everyone feel more comfortable, and it helps build stronger working relationships.
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4. Isolate employee feedback from employee reviews
You might run the warmest, fuzziest company in the world, but some of your employees may still worry that their honest feedback could come back to haunt them at review time. One option is to annonymize employee details, which can keep everyone focused on ideas and not on personal vendettas.
5. Share the ideas and the glory
When one of your employees delivers an idea that result in cost savings or increased revenue, share the good news. More important: share the wealth by rewarding the person or persons who suggested the idea. It builds good will and encourages others to follow suit. When you create a structured environment that encourages employee feedback and participation—and you recognize and reward creative problem-solving—you’ll have a team that’s dedicated to company success.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of Small Business Computing. Follow Lauren on Twitter.