Sometimes the greatest ideas come from the bottom up, but how do these ideas make it to those in charge? At the Village, we know that innovation can come from anywhere in the company, and in an effort to include all employees in the conversation, I began a tradition called “Cookies and Conversations.”
Here are a few key lessons I’ve learned through our “Cookies and Conversations” events that can help any company harness the power of possibility.
Open-Door Doesn’t Always Mean Welcoming. Many companies claim that transparency and open communication are pillars of their company culture. But when it comes to collecting feedback and ideas from employees at every level, efforts can’t be passive. You must create an environment that encourages honest, direct lines of communication because many employees find it intimidating to independently approach higher-ups with their ideas. In order to harness the power of your collective workforce genius, you’ve got to have a personal relationship with staff members.
Create Space for Communication. So, how do you ask employees for feedback in a way that not only makes them feel comfortable but also exhibits just how important their ideas are? I feel that we at Give Kids the World have found a solution through our “Cookies and Conversations” meetups. Once a year, I meet with each department individually. The night before the meetup, I bake homemade treats (a small touch that I feel sends a big message). I also ensure that all department supervisors are met with separately, allowing for more honest feedback from their subordinates. The goal of all this is to create a space that puts employees at ease.
Encourage All Types of Feedback. Now that you’ve created a space where employees can relax, it’s time to start the conversation. All types of communication bring their own value to the table, so I encourage my staff to share anything and everything they’d like. Positive experiences, ideas for improvement, grievances, rumors they’ve heard﹘ all are welcome and appreciated. These small pieces of the puzzle help us innovate, improve, and grow together.
Focus on Employee Needs. Your staff members on the front lines have amazing insight into what your customers are really asking for. And while this information is fantastic to have, I like to focus on what we can do to improve the workplace experience for the people who are out there making it all happen day in and day out. When you prioritize your staff’s needs, they will in turn take better care of your customers. Remember, employees want exactly what customers want﹘ to feel special, to be treated as individuals, and to be respected. Your staff does so much for you. They deserve to be asked how you can better serve them.