Part of building a successful business is being able to let other people tell you how to do it better. Companies that set up mechanisms to learn from their employees, particularly those at the base of the company who do automated work and aren’t brought into weekly meetings to voice their say, see economic gain and happier employees.
Great Little Box, a packaging company in Canada, realized that the people executing the orders and deliveries were responsible for the bulk of what the company did and for nearly all of its public perception in terms of accuracy, timeliness and general customer experience. The company began offering financial incentives for catching errors in work orders, encouraging employees to pay more attention and to take action when they found an inaccuracy. A tangential program offered employees up to CAN$2,500 when his or her idea to cut costs was implemented. As a result of this Idea Recognition Program, the company was able to cut costs by CAN$25,000, ten times the amount it invested in the reward. This example was taken from the recent study, Profit at the Bottom of the Ladder.
Here’s another option. A developer I used to work with started a program where the development team would spend a half day per month shadowing other employees. By observing how other employees did their work, the developers were often able to code up shortcuts to automate or streamline tasks, which boosted company productivity considerably and shrank the knowledge gap between departments.
Grassroots isn’t just a term for political activism or nonprofit fundraising. Amy Skoczlas Cole, who directs eBay’s Green Team, commits to getting employee feedback on the company’s goals from the beginning. “Don’t let big decisions get made without employee consultation and consideration. While major decisions happen at the executive level, eBay’s sustainability efforts have been much more grassroots in nature.” A simple note here: ask your employees what they think when there’s still time for their response to have an impact.