Organizations of every size, shape, and tax status pour loads of money into trying to find out what customers want. That’s important, of course, but leaders should be equally committed to figuring out what their employees want.
The Benefits of Listening Before Acting. Any growth endeavor requires a great deal of internal brainstorming and thorough planning to achieve a successful, profitable execution. So, why is something so important often left up to the minds of just a few powerful individuals? Soliciting the input of those on the front lines can foster a deeper sense of engagement in – and a better chance of success for – your large-scale projects.
Let me give you an example. When the Village was planning a major guest accommodations expansion, we went to the housekeeping staff for advice. We asked them what we could do with the new villas that would make them easier to keep spotless. They gave us the idea to opt for easy-to-clean, hard flooring rather than carpet. This simple insight helped us design new rooms that were attractive to our guests, and convenient to maintain for our staff.
By asking those closest to the situation, you’re gaining knowledge that you as a leader can’t always see. This practice is beneficial for your company, and in the process your staff feels like their voices are being heard and that they are contributing in a meaningful way.
Try It, Maybe You’ll Like It. When you’ve got what feels like a great idea on your hands, there’s only one way to find out if it works﹘ test it out! Many companies are “open” to employee input, but when it comes down to execution, they fall short. This can mean that an idea with the potential for a significant impact is merely collected and put on a shelf instead of put into action.
At Give Kids The World, we’ve had overwhelming success with an employee idea that we were initially opposed to – an on-site gift shop. A front desk employee gave us the insight that guests were constantly asking where they could purchase a souvenir to remember their time at the Village. Since we don’t want guests to have any financial burden during their trip, we’d opted to only offer our merchandise at an online store.
But, since so many customers were asking, we decided to do a trial run, offering a small collection of souvenirs on a shelf behind the front desk. We decided that if the customers didn’t like it, we’d scrap the idea and move on. The response was so overwhelming that over time, that small shelf behind the front desk has evolved into the Memory Market, a dedicated store space offering a wide range of apparel and souvenirs. You never know the power of an idea until you try it!
A Culture of Innovation. Seek new ideas, new points of view, and new voices in all aspects of your business. You must make this a priority. Create a company culture that encourages workers to share their thoughts with leadership. This can’t be a passive “we’re always open to new ideas” at the end of meetings. Companies must provide spaces where employees feel they can share their ideas freely. Without this vital ingredient, engagement declines, and your organization misses out on opportunities for growth and innovation.