Every business encounters employee issues on occasion. Any number of factors can cause tension, unhappiness and other disruptive feelings.
Not all suggestions can be implemented, of course. But some can. And how you handle each situation helps determine how well your decisions sits with the employee. Here are four steps for handling suggestions:
1. Acknowledge the idea. Thank the employee for offering the idea. Emphasize that you’re pleased with the person’s interest in helping the firm improve its operations, bottom line, and so forth.
2. Give the idea serious thought. We’re assuming, of course, that the idea isn’t outlandish or obviously impractical. At some stage you will determine whether the idea can be implemented. If so, great! Do so, and thank the person again for the great idea.
Follow up with your staff later to describe the improvement(s) that have been realized. This information will further bolster the employee, especially if stated in a group meeting. It will also encourage others to offer their own ideas.
3. If the idea can’t be used, approach the employee and explain why. Restate your appreciation for the suggestion, and give your reason(s). Encourage the employee to keep trying. It’s the thought that counts, you”ll add. If you’re not sure about the idea, consider trying it.
I’m a member of an amateur radio group that administers the license exams. During one of our test sessions, an assistant proposed a step that he thought would speed up our grading process. I wasn’t so sure, but agreed to try it. Well, it didn’t work as planned, but I was happy to try. By doing so, I acknowledged my assistant’s effort to improve our operations. That was very thoughtful of him.
4. Gladly use a workable idea. Again, this sounds like a no-brainer, but some managers seem to stall on implementing good ideas. Is it ego? A rigid adherence to current procedures? Either way, the employee feels slighted, and his morale may drop. When possible, use those suggestions.
Returning to my ham radio group: That same assistant recently offered another tip. This one would cut down on the amount of paper we use. Granted, it’s not a lot–perhaps a dozen sheets of paper during each of our monthly sessions–but that can add up. His suggestion required a slight change in operations, but I agreed to let him try. The new process work well, so we are implementing his idea. I sent him an email thanking him for the suggestion.
Much like with customer service, where a simple gesture can soothe an irate customer, employee feelings and morale can be enhanced through a small gesture. There are many ways to do that; one powerful method is to use suggestions offered by your staff.
How often do your employees offer suggestions to improve your business? Do you handle them properly, or do you just dismiss them? Follow these steps next time. I think you’ll like the results.
For additional suggestions to help you build your business, see “Give up control to grow your business.”
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