Suggestion boxes at companies are being replaced by online idea-submission systems, according to the Wall Street Journal, a respected business periodical. These systems not only receive ideas for changes and new initiatives, but also allow employees the opportunity to comment and vote on suggestions from other staff members.
PricewaterhouseCoopers launched an idea-management website that generated 3,300 new ideas. Although the consulting firm has implemented only 140 of those ideas to date, the ones they did put into use have saved the company hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The irony is that too often executives call upon outsiders to evaluate business practices, systems and a variety of other factors that affect revenues and expenses, but fail to consider the insiders that could have the greatest insight. Employees usually know company products and processes better than consultants, since they work with them every day, yet many organizations never ask their staffs for ideas.
Years ago, manufacturers implemented “quality circles,” through which the employees most affected by production decisions would have input into actions taken and what conclusions were reached. In many cases employee advisory groups contributed significantly to greater efficiency and economy.
It might not be necessary to create quality circles for your organization, but some purposeful way of soliciting and responding to staff input on important organizational and management strategies could pay great dividends. There is a saying that sometimes it is hard to distinguish the forest from the trees, but it might be wise to periodically consult with those that are most familiar with the “trees.”
The Bible has much to say about this approach to business:
Do not be too proud to consult with others. Some executives seem to take the attitude that since they are in leadership positions, they should be expected to have all the answers. There is no rule that says that, and wise leaders encourage staff people to offer their perspectives. Proverbs 12:15 teaches, “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.”
Be receptive to views from a variety of reliable sources. There are many ways of soliciting valued counsel regarding business plans and key decisions, ranging from idea-submission systems to employee and team meetings. By taking full advantage of people and ideas available, the likelihood of success is multiplied. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed”(Proverbs 15:22).
Value the resources available within your own staff. Often the thinking of consultants is given greater weight because of their presumed objective perspectives. However, good stewardship requires proper utilization of the personnel we have within our companies, including involving their insights in critical decisions and practices. “… Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household”(Matthew 13:57).
Do not overlook the wisdom of your staff. If you make the process easy and open for all, they may have ideas that save you thousands.
Copyright 2013, Integrity Resource Center, Inc. Adapted with permission from “Integrity Moments with Rick Boxx,” a commentary on issues of integrity in the workplace from a Christian perspective. To learn more about Integrity Resource Center or to sign up for Rick’s daily Integrity Moments, visit www.integrityresource.org. His book, How to Prosper in Business Without Sacrificing Integrity, gives a biblical approach for doing business with integrity.
1. How are suggestions and ideas received at your company? Do you feel that your organization welcomes input from employees and staff members? Explain your answer.
2. What, in your opinion, is the greatest difference between soliciting advice and counsel from outside parties, such as consultants, and from people within the organization?
3. If you are in a position of authority, how receptive are you to the recommendations of those that report to you? Do you actively encourage their input? Why or why not?
4. Can you think of a good example of an innovation or change your company made that resulted from the wise insights of one or more employees? Describe the impact it had.
NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages:
Proverbs 10:17, 11:14, 19:20, 19:27, 20:18, 24:5-6, 27:17; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12