Tapping Into Your Employees’ Ideas

A manufacturing facility is the result of meticulous planning, plenty of analysis and constant refinement to find just the right blend of techniques that produce a product consistently, efficiently, safely and quickly. That being said, it can be difficult to spot areas for improvement when your management team has spent so much time putting a process together. What better resource to tap into than your employees to get feedback on processes and foster a companywide culture of improvement? If your business is having difficulty thinking of new ways to improve workflow, consider some of the following tips for tapping into the ideas of your workers.


  • Find People Who Naturally Improve Things – Whether a worker comes up with an efficient way to organize workspaces or he or she shows other employees a faster way to get the job done, small tasks are a sign of bigger picture thinking. Pay attention to workers who naturally improve and refine their daily work and ask for their input.


  • Recognize Employee Improvements Regularly – Whether it’s through newsletters or meetings with the company, take time to recognize and appreciate small changes or great performance in your workers. Taking pride in work naturally leads to workers wanting to find more ways to make their work better, and if your leadership shows you value those improvements, employees are more likely to keep bringing ideas to the table.


  • Be Humble – There are certainly times when leadership needs to take charge, develop ideas and implement change, but no leader has all the answers. If a process your managers put in place ends up not working, own up to the mistake and ask for feedback. Leadership that doesn’t gloss over shortcomings shows workers the company is transparent and looking to improve.


  • Emphasize Cross-Training – Not only does cross-training your employees prevent them from feeling bored and listless, but it can reveal opportunities for improving processes across the company. Make it a point to cross-train workers whenever possible, and consider quarterly events like employee shadowing where workers from entirely different departments spend the day watching each other work and learning about one another.


  • Keep Instructions to a Minimum – Naturally, certain processes will require very strict instructions to maintain safety and product uniformity, but a process that is meticulously planned out prevents workers from finding ways to connect the dots themselves. If a process can be completed in a number of different ways, allow workers to take ownership of that and show you how they’d complete a task.


  • Talk to Employees 1×1 Often – Nothing spurs creativity like asking for direct feedback. A manager who talks to his or her employees on a regular basis to ask for input shows the manager cares. Keep regularly scheduled meetings with workers to stay in tune with what your employees are thinking, and encourage the same thing of your middle managers.


Every company has procedures and policies in place to keep moving forward and limit downtime and waste, but much of what makes a company productive, unique and successful are the ideas of its employees. By taking the time to tap into your employees’ ideas, you can cultivate a sense of pride and ownership that benefits not only the worker but the company as a whole. What are some ways you tap into your employees for ideas on improvement and refinement? Let us know in the comments below.

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