Are you using your ideas factory?

Are you using your ideas factory?

There’s a famous saying by Richard Branson that everyone quotes – “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Now, taking care of your employees involves many things. Things like work-life balance, the environment you create, and, of course, their compensation package. But there’s something I feel many businesses ignore, which is all around using their employees as an “ideas factory”.

I regularly meet with clients to help them with their Employee Value Proposition (EVP), and far too many take decisions at a top level only. I’m a big believer in developing a “bottom-up” culture and involving people at all levels. Here are a few tips to help you do this.

Set up a mini-board

This is one of the things we do here at Onezeero. A group of our Senior Consultants have their own monthly meetings where they discuss strategies to improve the business. They then present those ideas to the directors and the MD – and many of them get acted upon. Some of the biggest products in the world came about because of this approach.

For example, the idea for the Sony PlayStation came from an employee who thought there was potential for that type of product. While a lot of people at Sony weren’t in favour, the CEO bought into it, and the rest is history! But for every story like that one, there are countless others where businesses have let talented people - and bright ideas - slip through their fingers, all because they didn’t encourage them.

Full feedback

At the end of the day, the people at the coal face of the business are the ones who deal with customers. They’re the ones with their ear to the ground, so it’d be foolish not to get their opinions on the market and what you could be doing better.

At the same time, get their feedback as an employee as well. What do they think of the management team or the culture? Don’t wait for Glassdoor reviews. Have one big survey every year (the Employee Net Promoter Score is a useful tool) and then regular, more informal meetings where people can share honest opinions. This can be on anything – from working practices to wallpaper suggestions!

Some businesses do regular town hall type events. This is especially suitable for large organisations where, perhaps, the leadership team isn't as visible. It’s important that employees are comfortable enough to ask questions at these events. But if you don’t think that’s the case, you can always get people to submit them anonymously beforehand.

Open all hours

Speaking of visibility, open-plan offices have become a big trend over the years, and it’s something I’m a fan of. There’s many advantages from a business perspective - it encourages collaboration between different departments - but also from a culture point of view.

Having the leadership team sat in their own offices, isolated from everyone else, doesn’t always send the right message. Being in the hub of things allows you to keep your finger on the pulse and makes it easy for employees to make suggestions. It’s one of the things I’ve really noticed since I joined Onezeero almost 18 months ago. The MD and I are regularly approached by staff at all levels, because they know they don’t need to book a slot in our diaries to give an opinion!

Create a business within the business

Especially useful in sales environments, it’s good to make people realise that they’re not just a cog in the wheel. Show them they can actually take full ownership of what they work on.

For example, all of our consultants actually create a business plan at the start of each year. It covers everything from their billings forecast, through to target clients. By taking this approach, everybody has an interest in pushing the business forward – rather than the MD having to drag people with them.

You never know, you may end up with an entire division being created because of it. Some of our recruiters have gone on to head up a division within specific tech verticals – and to think, it all started with a spreadsheet and a PowerPoint!

One of the biggest attractions for any member of staff is knowing they can play a genuine role in the development of the business. This isn’t just to do with their job. It’s about whether the people at the top are listening to them. How much of their feedback do you take on board? How much of their knowledge do you utilise? Are you making use of the ideas factory?

If you’re a recruiter looking to own your career path, please reach out to me today via ross.summers@onezeero.co.uk for a confidential chat.

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