Still four simple words. Back when we won the first of our two When Work Works (WWW) awards, that phrase “what do you think” was one of many insightful data points in our report. To reiterate what happened, PlastiCert, through our local chamber of commerce, engaged with the Alfred P Sloan Foundation, to assess our company for workplace flexibility and effectiveness. We were one of a handful of companies nationwide awarded the When Work Works Award and were one of the few manufacturing companies (most were office operations like law, accounting, and business services).
One of the questions for all our coworkers to answer in their When Work Works (WWW) questionnaire was, “My managers seek information and new ideas from employees.” At WWW award winning organizations (including ours), 62 % of coworkers strongly agreed with that statement. The results from other companies around the country revealed that only 20% of their employees would agree with that statement about their supervisors and managers.
The key aspect of that question is managers seeking information. Getting coworkers to offer up ideas and feedback must go further than putting up a suggestion box. You can take that one step with the box, especially to provide an avenue for introverts and those not used to talking with management. Preceding that suggestion box step, is a concerted engagement activity, through the management and supervisor ranks, to engage in dialog and actively solicit input. Lay the groundwork and even expectation that a part of all coworkers’ job includes them communicating their thoughts and ideas on their workspace and activities.
Some management teams, including myself early in my career, thought you were opening Pandora’s Box by asking the question, “What do you think”? Once you realize that your focus should be on the total outcome and not the process itself, asking that question becomes a logical step toward coworker satisfaction and continuous improvement.