We’ve all seen them, or at least heard of them. The infamous ‘idea box’. The waste of space somewhere in a corner of an office. If not empty, its often a channel to anonymously vent frustrations – which quickly decreases management interest in ‘employee ideas’.
Personally I think it is a shame such a great opportunity to receive great ideas from the people dealing with your every day to day business is so often undervalued. The following seven steps ensure your employees will generate ideas, feel motivated to share them, and provide real opportunities to your company with the least amount of effort.
1. Formulate ambitions
Step one is to formulate your ambitions or mission statement and chop it up into goals. It should be obvious what your vision is, what you want to achieve.
2. Be open about ambitions
Step two is to communicate the ambitions of your company across the lines. Don’t just keep your management informed but make sure every single employee understands the goal. Include them in the welcome package of new employees, put them into slides at company presentations and ask about them in evaluation interviews. You are now planting the seeds of a prepared mind.
3. Encourage participation
Step three is to encourage participation. You could specifically ask for ideas at evaluation moments, be clear about having an open office policy to anyone with an idea, do brainstorm meetings focused on processing input from employers from all levels of your company and inform management to communicate your intention to listen to ideas.
4. Be transparent about your rewards
With the prepared mindset of your employees there are bound to be great ideas, but your employers might still be hesitant to share them. The most common reason is they see sharing an idea more as a risk rather then an opportunity. By being clear about the rewards to those with initiative you emphasize the opportunity rather than the perceived risk.
Obviously not every idea can be rewarded, and the levels of rewards will vary – but it’s important to show you appreciate input.
5. Manage the ideas
One of the reasons the ‘idea box’ never really works is because it shows a complete disrespect for the ideas and initiative offered by your employees. Make sure everyone knows ideas get processed, reviewed and taken into consideration. Being open to ideas is not just a way for your employers to vent their disgruntle – chances are if you create the right prepared mind there will be very valuable input from your employers who deal with clients, or their colleagues on a day to day basis. Give that input the respect it deserves.
6. Show the results of ideas
Continuing from step 5, make sure you show the results of ideas. Provide feedback to both the person offering you the idea, and everyone benefitting from it. If an idea doesn’t make it, be transparent about why. This will also amplify your efforts to be transparent about rewards(step 4) and promote participation (step 3).
7. Learn from ideas
Above all, whether it is a good idea or a bad idea – the ideas tell you something about the situation. Every idea symbolizes a perceived problem or opportunity. Even if the solution can’t be executed, or is simply not good enough, look at the two other elements of the idea – the problem, and the information and inspiration. Chances are it will be worth your time.