Alonzo had been working with his health care firm for about five years when he had an idea to improve customer care. He went to his immediate supervisor, Karl, and shared it with him. Karl agreed that the idea sounded intriguing and said that he would look into it.
Alonzo waited as the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months until, finally, almost a year later, he went to Karl and asked about his idea. Karl remembered Alonzo coming to him with the idea and he remembered that he liked the idea. He remembered talking with the management team about it, and that was it. Alonzo’s idea went nowhere.
How does your organization get feedback from your team members? What employee engagement activities does your organization have in place? In Alonzo’s case, there was no mechanism for employee feedback or suggestions that was taken seriously. Many great organizations have exploded with growth because of a simple idea from a front-line employee. It gives credence to the old adage, “Can’t see the forest for the trees.”
Why is this so often the case? When companies are small and getting started, they tend to be very creative. Then, as the business grows, creativity diminishes. Some organizations brag that they have little or no turnover. While on the surface that appears to be a great thought, not bringing in new people can make an organization stagnant.
Here are four simple ways that any organization can promote positive feedback within your organization:
- Suggestion boxes – The secret, of course, is to have a plan to check the boxes and implement a rewards plan for suggestions that are implemented. One organization I worked with several years ago had the plan that whatever the idea (increase revenue or decrease expense), the net dollars factor for the first 12 months after implementation was split 50/50 with the employee who made the suggestion. In this company, one employee had an idea that saved the company almost $20,000 the first year and at the annual company holiday party, the president presented the employee with a check for $10,000.
- Schedule a meeting for new concept generation – This is used by high tech companies and advertising agencies. What happens is that the people work on ideas with members from other teams. Treat this meeting like a traditional brainstorm session; don’t discuss ideas, simply write them down. Discussion comes later.
- Purposefully ask an employee to do a task differently than it has been done in the past. Yes, there will be some sacrifice of productivity and, if the new ideas isn’t better, return to the original way. The idea here is to think creatively and differently.
- Have employees work in another division for a period of time. A fresh set of eyes working on something new can be a powerful suggestion tool.
Whatever method of generating ideas you decide upon, it is even more critical to have a follow-through mechanism in place. Employees need to know if an idea is viable or not, and if not, why not. It is possible that, once faced with new information, they will be able to come up with another new idea.
Now back to Alonzo, he tried one more time to suggest a more effective way to do his job and once again nothing came from it. So he left the company and went to a competitor who embraced his new idea. Alonzo was happy, as was the new company. What can we learn from this , not only for employees, but also for entire organizations? If you’re not growing, you are dying.