Putting together an effective employee input program is not as simple as it may appear. Here are a few principles that successful companies have followed.
1. Hold regularly scheduled meeting for the express purpose of company improvement
After about four weeks, people begin to lose focus on a task. That’s why I recommend scheduling employee and management input meetings at least once a month.
The key is consistency. You should schedule meetings at the same time, for the same day each month. If a meeting must be postponed, it should be made up before the next scheduled meeting.
2. Create a neutral atmosphere
A non-manager who can facilitate employees during input meetings is a plus. Whatever you do, do not censor people’s ideas. Decision-makers’ responses can help clarify why some ideas may not work as well as others.
In any program, it should be the function of management to support employees who have ideas and suggestions. Even if the suggestion for change won’t work, the employee should be aware that management appreciated the attempt solve a problem.
3. Separate creative and analytical
Separate the brainstorming part of the meeting from the evaluation. Creative ideas always flow in a neutral fun atmosphere. The first idea mentioned might not be great; however, it could trigger an idea that is better, and that idea could lead to even better ones.
Too many brainstorming sessions use a pattern of determining the value of an idea the moment that it appears. If the evaluation is negative (“That’s a stupid idea!”), the person who brought it up may decide to stop participating and begin to sulk. The possible chain of ideas leading to final brilliant concept is broken.
Next Monday we’ll look at the next three principles.