Small Business Human Resources
Employee Suggestions and Feedback
Written by Andrew Goldman for Gaebler Ventures
Can your employees seek help above their direct supervisor? Make sure your employees can discuss issues with someone outside of their supervisor.
All of our employees have value, from bottom to top.
It's important to fully utilize this value and receive input from employees at all levels.
How much input you get from your lower level employees is directly related to the management structure of your company. Is their input sought? And do they have the ability to go above their supervisor's heads if there is a problem or suggestion for improvement?
While most issues should be handled directly by the supervisor, you employees should feel comfortable and have the ability to speak with higher level management.
This is not to suggest a situation where lower level employees are constantly tattling on their supervisors. What this is suggesting is that employee should be comfortable going to senior management if the need arises.
Clearly you don't want to bog down your upper-management with the trivial issues, but there are times when an employee has information that should be relayed to higher levels of the company.
If your company does not have a system where this is possible, you could be underutilizing your employees and missing out on some valuable information. If an employee comes up with a great suggestion for improvement or to save money, they might go to their direct supervisor with the suggestion. If the supervisor rejects the idea and the employee does not feel comfortable taking the issue any further, the employee's suggestion will be lost.
If your company has a system where feedback to upper management is allowed, ideas and suggestions can be analyzed and accepted. In addition, it gives the employees a sense of importance and increases job satisfaction.
If an employee is making a suggestion that will help the company and it's falling on deaf ears, this sends a strong negative message to the employee. They can feel like they are unimportant or unvalued. When you have a system where employee feedback is welcomed and listened to, you should see positive impacts to overall job satisfaction.
You can set-up a system to make this process operate easily. Typically companies who follow this management strategy incorporate suggestion boxes or "ideas of the month". Both of these can be valuable tools.
You still want to make sure that employees can seek help above their supervisors if they feel it necessary. Companies are often hesitant about this because they picture employees coming to senior management with mundane issues. It's important to distinguish between lower-level issues and important business-wide suggestions.
While allowing your employees to feel comfortable talking to senior management is not going to turn your company around overnight, it will help you utilize the intellectual capital within your company.
Your employees are on the front-lines and have great ideas and suggestions that can improve your business. You want to take advantage of your employees' know-how and set-up a system that will capture their brainpower.
Andrew Goldman is an Isenberg School of Management MBA student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has extensive experience working with small businesses on a consulting basis.
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