How much input do you really want from your employees?

by Gabi Anderson Courtney

employee input, Gabi Anderson Courtney, teamwork

There is no easy answer to this question and it will depend on various things; what industry are you in, what is the structure of the business, how much freedom are you prepared to give your team and many other things.

Picard management tip: “Tell the crew where to go. Let them figure out how to get there.”

You want your team engaged, passionate and willing to have input, but you also need to set boundaries.

In my career in HR, on one occasion I have witnessed a ground-level employee march straight into the CEO’s office without making an appointment or any prior notice, and spending about an hour there, well, simply whining. This is definitely not the input you want.

When this happened, the CEO should have simply marched the employee out and ask her to go through the proper channels. Unfortunately this was not the case. It takes a lot of qualities to have the title CEO, and one of them is to be firm and knowing what your time is worth. So, what is wrong with a casual work relationship like this? First of all, the CEO had to stop whatever he was doing to redirect his attention to the employee. This sort of action allows the employee to disrespect the whole management team and send the message that the management team has no ability to solve whatever problem this person had. It sends the message to everyone else working there not to use the proper communication methods given (suggestion box, talking to the direct manager, emails, or as a last resort, making an appointment with the CEO) but simply bypass it all in hope of a quick resolution.

So, how much input do you really want from your employees? I’d say a lot. Very often I finish conversations with people by reminding them that suggestions are always welcome. People on the ground level see things management might not see; it simply comes down to being on the front line and seeing if something can be done better or can save time.

Having said that, you need to be very clear on how you want to receive recommendations. Email is probably best, as it makes it formal and clear what the suggestion is. All emails should receive a response, whether on the positive or negative side, and encouragement to keep coming up with ideas. This will make the person feel valued, even if that particular idea brought up in the email will not be implemented.

Having said that, there are decisions you should not involve your employees in. What are these decisions? For starters, anything that does not fit in their set of skills. For example, employees with minimal technical knowledge should not have an input on what software system your organization will use. Anything that should be kept confidential and will compromise your company’s ability to compete in the marketplace should only be shared with people who need to be involved. And if you are considering of selling and using your exit strategy, definitely do not share or ask opinions on the matter.

People are the lifeblood of any business, and when they feel valued, they can move mountains. One way to keep people motivated is to keep them involved and make them feel their voices are heard, but this must be done through the right channels. Be the leader who people can look up to and respect.