Managing Employee Relationships: Inclusion and Seeking Input

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

When talking about gathering input from employees with leaders at SOMC, I often hear that many times decisions have to be made so fast that there is not enough time to gather ideas or suggestions from the workforce.  Or, the nature of the decision (regulatory, compliance, etc.) would not be able to be changed even if input was gathered.  Sometimes I have heard leaders share that their employees just do not understand the problem and seeking their input would not be valuable.

Why is it important to do anyway?

Once you have gone through all of the effort of recruiting talent to your workforce and inviting them to join your culture, it is important to find a way to harness the talent and potential they have for growth within that culture.  What we have learned through our own engagement surveys at SOMC, and from other Great Places to Work, is that members of a high-performing workforce want to serve in an environment in which people’s ideas are actively sought.  If you want your workforce to be a part of your mission…to make a difference, then as leaders we are obligated to invest the time it takes to allow the workforce to give input into decisions that affect their work.

How can you do it?

  1. Regularly round with your employees.  One evidence-based technique for systematically gathering input from your workforce is to “round”.  Rounding is a moment set aside for you and your direct report to talk about what is going well, who has been helpful to work with (opportunities for peer-peer recognition) and ideas on what equipment and/or processes need improved.  Individuals that may not be comfortable speaking up in a department meeting format will have the opportunity to share their ideas in a private setting.
  2. Add an “Open Forum” section to each meeting agenda.  Another way to hard-wire the gathering of ideas is to add an ‘open forum’ section at the end of each formal meeting.  This give the group an opportunity to give additional ideas for improvement that may have been generated by the meeting content, or other hot issues at the time.
  3. Graciously accept others ideas and feedback.  To create an environment in which your workforce shares ideas freely, you must work hard to accept feedback graciously.  Ideas for improvement are a gift, even though the feedback may be inaccurate or sting.  To keep the ideas flowing, a leader needs to thank the employee for their feedback and work diligently not to react defensively.
  4. Close the loop.  The most important strategy in creating an environment where a workforce feels comfortable sharing ideas is to actually DO something with ideas that are mentioned.  Nothing is more damaging to a leader personally or to an organizational culture than to ask repeatedly for ideas and then never do anything with the ideas nor explain why the idea has not been implemented.  Obviously, not every idea is a good one.  However, high performing employees want to know the status of their input, even if it’s not going to be implemented, with a “why” explanation.

What is one successful strategy you have used to seek ideas from members of your workforce?

2 Responses to “Managing Employee Relationships: Inclusion and Seeking Input”

Kendall L. Stewart September 20th, 2013 at 1:27 am

I often find that identifying the real issue is the biggest hurdle. When the leader has clarified the issue, there are usually a number of options available. My colleagues are very good at identifying options that I might have never considered. Once all of the available options have been acknowledged, the best option often becomes obvious to everyone. At this point, asking the right questions about how we might proceed is the next leadership challenge. When leaders pose the right questions, colleagues are usually quick to come up with the right answers. And everyone enjoys being able to contribute in this way.

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