Most companies at least give lip service to the idea that every employee has something valuable to contribute. But actually, creating the space for employees to voice their ideas and concerns takes deliberate action. Heather Younger, author of The Art of Caring Leadership says, “People need to feel comfortable speaking up, to know that they’re not going to be ridiculed. They’re not going to be fired. They’re not going to be made fun of.”
That level of comfort only happens when leaders create an environment of safety. There could be important and innovative ideas that will never be available to your company. Unleash them and don’t trap them inside walls of fear or discomfort.
Here are five ways to tap into the limitless resources of your company’s talent simply by creating a safe space for them to participate.
1. Listen first, talk last
There is a type of response bias called demand characteristics. This bias occurs when someone understands the purpose of a question or survey and answers according to what they believe the person in control is looking for.
When leaders speak first, they risk creating bias in their employees. To get unfiltered, unbiased ideas and opinions from your employees, it’s important to speak last.
2. Learn how to avoid microaggressions
Microaggressions are small, thoughtless words or actions that can make employees feel uncomfortable, unsafe, and unwilling to communicate. For example, moving a person’s wheelchair without asking can make that person feel small and vulnerable. Very often the people committing these microaggressions are simply unaware of what they’re doing.
However, they can add up to an employee feeling powerless, losing productivity, and eventually leaving. So it’s important that leaders do the work of educating themselves on how to eliminate microaggressions in the workplace so they can lead both by example and teaching.
3. Create pitch events
It’s not enough to tell your employees that they’re welcome to share ideas whenever they want. They need a venue where they feel invited and safe.
Consider creating a forum or regular, quarterly meeting where employees can pitch their ideas individually or in groups. Make sure they’re aware that while every idea is valued, not every idea will be implemented.
4. Coach employees on how to take action
Rather than thanking them for their ideas and sending them on their way, consider inviting your employee to take action on the idea or possibly even lead its implementation.
The true mark of a leader is their ability to empower their employees. Coaching someone on how to go from idea to reality is a great way to help them take ownership in the company. You’re also grooming the potential future leaders of the company.
5. Share the results
When someone can see their results in actual numbers, they understand their impact in a very real way. Let your employees in on how they are affecting the company. Then further invite them to participate in discussing what worked, what didn’t and what can be done moving forward.
By making a conscious effort to create a safe space and cultivate a culture of collaboration, you’re doing your part to help your company innovate and grow. And most importantly, you’re empowering the people who work for you.
Are you ready to better your company culture? Contact us today.