Getting Employees To Speak

“I knew that was going to happen.” Personally, I hate these words, because when I hear them, typically something has gone wrong. And usually that means the person uttering them didn’t say anything during the process. It was only after the fact that he or she claims to have known all along that whatever we just tried to do (usually a DIY project in the garage, in my own personal experience) was doomed to fail.

This sentiment is often expressed in the business world as well. It’s sometimes uttered quietly after management has made a procedure change that didn’t work entirely or as expected. This is especially damaging in a business because it hurts morale, undermines the authority of the boss and ultimately wastes time and money.

Building the employee/employer relationships

A company is a team, a group of individuals that rely on each other, and what could be more imperative to a team than communication? Encourage this thinking in staff meetings and by accepting employee suggestions. If there are issues that will require big change, involve the employees. Form a committee. This not only gives employees a voice, but encourages them to also be active in the process. Encourage committee members to develop an in-house bulletin that can be circulated with notes after a meeting. Have members survey other employees to see what challenges they have and possible solutions. Make sure committee members are publicly identified, so that employees know who they can come to in order to discuss their concerns.

Or in the case of a small company, encourage an open door policy for yourself. The culture of communication starts at the top. If the owner listens to suggestions and doesn’t take them as criticisms, employees will not only be more likely to speak up, but also take suggestions in a more positive way as well.

Point out when employees have made a positive suggestion and when the outcome has benefited the whole staff. This not only rewards the idea of sharing ideas, but makes employees feel appreciated, which leads to loyalty. When faced with employees sharing an idea that you disagree with, instead of shooting it down, try questioning it further. If their suggestion was implemented, how would they deal with situation A? Where do they think the company could find money to implement their suggestion?

It’s occasionally important to remind employees and ourselves of the fact that everyone shares the same goal – to make a successful company. That can start with how we communicate with each other and being proactive in addressing issues. With open communication, you are more likely to get (build) it right the first time.

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