Everyone says their company is employee-focused. Everyone says that their most important asset is their people. Everyone says that they have a flat structure and that there is an open door policy for everyone. So how can you tell the difference between the companies that are employee-focused and those that merely say they are employee focused?
I find there are three signs and they all involve a Suggestions Box.
A suggestion box? Isn’t that a sign that the management is honestly interested on improving and engaging the employees to improve the company? Not always.
In fact, there are three signs related to suggestions boxes that illustrate how committed management is to being employee-focus. These are:
1. You have a Suggestion Box
Although many people take this as an indication that the company is honestly interested in their employee’s suggestions and ideas, that is not always the case. In fact, a Suggestion Box reinforces a hierarchical structure. They may be interested in your ideas, but only after a review process. A suggestion box says:
“Thanks for your suggestion, we will review it and let you know if it has merit. Don’t call us, we will call you”
The suggestion box, still sets up an us and them structure between employees and management. This was re-inforced to me during an awesome keynote by Mark Graban at SDEC13. Mark pointed out that several Lean hospitals have moved towards suggestions Kan-Ban boards so that everyone can see their co-workers suggestions and see the progression of those ideas from submission to completion!
That shows the engagement and commitment the hospital has to their employee’s ideas. Brutal visibility.
2. The Suggestion Box is not actively used
An even worse situation is if you have a suggestion box and it is not actively used. This usually results from suggestions being submitted and dismissed by management. Employees soon discover that there is no action taken on their suggestions, so why should they bother? Even worse, lack of suggestions sometimes indicates a lack of trust in management. There may be suspicion about whether people making suggestions will be labelled as trouble-makers.
3. You have an anonymous suggestion box
Oh boy. If a company has an anonymous suggestion box, it almost is an acknowledgement that management can’t be trusted with knowing who submitted an idea. And that employees feel they need anonymity to be safe to submit ideas.
I love the idea of a suggestion Kan Ban board. It provides brutal visibility as to the suggestions submitted by employees and shows employees that management takes their ideas seriously and are implementing them. It requires absolute commitment by management to implement employee’s ideas though. Any filtering, removal, or dismissal of ideas by management will be visible to everyone.