Best Practices for Asking for Employee Ideas

Creativity should be rewarded, but you need to ask for it.

Can an employee ever offer you the unvarnished truth? Many of us would like to say yes, but stop and think back to the jobs you held before you took a leadership role. If your boss had asked for the full-on truth, would you have given it to them? At the same time, though, your employees are often your best source for the necessary innovation you need to drive your business forward. So implement these best practices for encouraging honesty and openness.

Set the Tone

It really starts with leadership. Just like employees are reluctant to be honest about the tough questions with their bosses, leaders can sometimes find themselves wanting to soften the truth. Really, that’s just human nature, especially with tough news.

So, practice the golden rule: Treat your employees the way you want them to treat you. Setting that tone will ensure they offer you their true opinion, instead of holding back.

Give Them Ways to Communicate

Another roadblock is that even if you’ve got a positive idea or contribution, it can be hard for some of us to put ourselves out there. So, work out ways employees can communicate, and make sure it’s voluntary both in submitting and in identifying themselves. Some people simply don’t enjoy a spotlight, or their idea might be a positive for them but a seeming negative for others, so anonymity is important. A simple suggestion box, an open door policy, brainstorming meetings, and even just making it clear that if they need to talk to you, you’ll find the time to make it happen will give your employees the chance to shine.

How will your employees surprise you?

Give Them Latitude

Not every idea is going to work for your business, specifically. Even truly great ideas sometimes just don’t fit with a certain company or industry, for some reason. And that can be discouraging, if you let it be, so make sure it isn’t. Make it clear that there’s no such thing as a bad idea, just an idea whose time hasn’t come yet, and make a point of thanking people who step up, no matter how their ideas shake out. If employees understand that what matters is that they have something to offer, not that their ideas must be brilliant, they’re more likely to offer you more innovation.

Reward Creativity, Personally

Another key is acknowledging creativity personally. Something as simple as coming by somebody’s desk and thanking them in person, giving them a shout out at the start of a company meeting, or otherwise personally acknowledging they helped out can be a huge boost to any employee. Part of the advantage of innovation is your employee being able to point to something, whether it’s an enormous breakthrough or just something that shaves a few hours off a dull task, and say “I built that.”

Innovation is the lifeblood of any company. A company without innovation is one that will either begin to fade in importance or be shaken up enormously by a sudden change. However, if you work with your employees, you’ll soon find they’re your greatest resource for innovation. To get started, contact us.

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