Empowered Employees Part 2

October 3, 2005

By: John Zink

Your employees have great ideas about how improve productivity and reduce costs in your company. Are you asking for these ideas and listening when they are offered?

What is the best way to ask your employees for suggestions on improvement? An enlightened owner may be perfectly willing to listen to all complains and suggestions for improvement, not realizing that they have no way of collecting this feedback.

Suggestion Box
There are several problems with the traditional suggestion box hung on the wall in the office. Making suggestions anonymously is difficult with the box being in a public place. If there is only one suggestion in the box, it must be from that one person the receptionist saw at the box earlier that week.

Access is also an issue. You will not get suggestions put in the box in the office from field crews who never see the office or service techs who spend little time there.

Keep the Door Open, But Don’t Depend on it.
Companies that claim to have an “open door” policy should also consider the hurdles they are putting up for their employees.

Depending on the company culture, the average employee may not be comfortable bringing their concerns to the person with the open door. Intimidation and the fear of appearing to be a “complainer” will keep many employees silent about company issues.

What if the employee’s issue is with the person whose door is open or one of their relatives? If the open door leads to the owner’s office, few employees will be comfortable marching in and telling the boss that his son is driving the company into the ground.

And again we find the problem of a separation of office and field employees. Field crews who never see the office or service techs who spend little time there face the additional hurdle of being out of their element & in uncomfortable territory while lodging their complaints or suggestions.

People don’t like to be uncomfortable, but they would usually rather suffer in silence than deal with a face-to-face confrontation about the issue. The issue will remain unresolved and the employee may decide to move on a new job, leaving the problem for the next person.

One Company's Process
One company owner in the construction industry recognized the importance of employee feedback and struggled to find the best method for collecting this information. This owner began to recognize the problems with office suggestion boxes and open door policies and decided to take a more active approach.

We have the benefit of learning from his mistakes and not repeating them.



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