Making the most of employee suggestions
Brent Renneke, Associate Editor
September 4, 2012
Filed under Brent Renneke
Regardless of the size of your company, it is unlikely your senior leaders are aware of all the inefficiencies your frontline workers encounter on a daily basis. Therefore, a Harvard Business School article suggests you ask them about their issues and act to resolve them.
The article’s author, Paul Guttry, outlines research performed by two Harvard professors – Anita Tucker and Sara Singer – that encourages leadership to adopt employee-suggestion programs that solve the most problems, not only the ones with broad implications.
Tucker and Singer recommend senior leaders take an hour to speak with their employees on the frontlines, which in their study were nurses, doctors, therapists and administrators, in order to put together a task list to improve safety.
With the identified issues, Tucker and Singer found hospitals that took an “action” approach and fixed several easy-to-solve problems showed greater improvement in safety than an analysis approach where officials worked to solve a more difficult, “high-value” problem with more widespread benefit.
At a dealership or a large manufacturing operation, for example, leadership could stand to learn a lot from those in the service department or on the manufacturing floor, whether it is to improve safety or efficiency. Some employees may be more comfortable giving their opinion when solicited one on one, rather than speaking up in a meeting or approaching a manager.
Those same employees may not identify a “high-value” issue with broad consequences, but they may offer an issue that is affecting their own day-to-day work. By solving a number of these “low-hanging fruit” issues, Tucker and Singer observed great improvement in their study.
One reason cited by the Harvard researchers for solving numerous smaller issues over one broad one was employees see their suggestions are being implemented, not ignored.
The approach could be a great way to improve efficiency, as well as to boost your employees’ investment in the company.