By Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D. President of The Discovery Group
Our research shows that 7 out of 10 employees believe that management does not act on employee suggestions. Here's why this is a problem.
Good Suggestions Slip Through the Cracks
One of the major lessons of the quality improvement movement has been that employees who actually perform the work usually have very good suggestions for improving the work. Ignoring their ideas is a sure prescription for inefficiency and reduced profitability.
Employees Lose Trust in Managemen
How can employees trust the judgement of senior management when their good suggestions are ignored? Without this trust, their motivation and commitment to the organization will surely decline.
Employees Feel They are Not Respected
Ignoring their suggestions is a slap in the face to employees. In time, employees reciprocate by showing a lack of respect to management.
Employees Begin to Withhold Useful Suggestions
I have often heard employees say",I know they are throwing money down the drain, but there's no way in hell I would tell management how to improve things. They would only ignore me." Organizations with this type of climate are destined to fail.
WHAT MANAGEMENT CAN DO
Skip the Middles
It is very easy for good suggestions to get lost in the hierarchy. Employees become frustrated when their supervisors do not pass along their suggestions to senior management. Senior management should circumvent the bureaucracy by conducting face-to-face meetings with employees. Meetings such as "bagels-with-the-President" and "brown-bag-lunches with the CEO" can offer rich opportunities for ferreting out useful ideas.
Get Rid of the "Suggestion Box"
There is no better way to alienate employees than to say",If you have any ideas, just stick 'em in the box." Employees should be treated as adults and given the opportunity to communicate their ideas in person.
Set Realistic Expectations
Management needs to make it clear that not every suggestion can be used, but that all suggestions are welcome.
Public recognition or cash awards for good suggestions can be very motivating to employees. However, great care should be taken in managing such a program. I have seen these types of programs lead to resentment among employees.
Proactively Promote the Proliferation of Suggestions
Management should make it clear to employees that providing suggestions is an expected part of everyone's job.
Close the Loop
Employees need to know that their suggestions are not being ignored. It is important for management to communicate to employees when their suggestions are being implemented. Doing so will increase the probability that employees will continue to make useful suggestions.
Contact Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D.",The Survey Doctor"
President THE DISCOVERY GROUP
9 Blair Circle Sharon, MA 02067
Voice - 781-784-4367 Fax - 781-784-6450