10 Ways to Encourage Your Staff to Speak Up
When your employees come to you with suggestions and ideas, it can lead to great things. Some of the best concepts and innovations come through staff members, as they’re the ones interacting with your systems and customers each day.
Unfortunately, not everyone feels comfortable speaking up. They might think their ideas will be dismissed, or not taken seriously. And if these individuals have had previous experiences of this happening, they’ll be even less likely to offer their opinions in future.
So how do you empower your team to speak up, and openly discuss ways to improve the business? We’ve looked at ten ways to encourage such communication below:
1. Be Transparent
Your staff want to know that when you say that you want them to come forward with their opinions, you really mean it. Lots of companies say that they appreciate employee feedback, but don’t actually listen to the concerns or ideas raised. So make sure you are genuinely encouraging candour, and be transparent about the reasons you want to hear from your employees.
2. Allow Anonymity
Not everyone wants to put their name to a suggestion. They might prefer to remain anonymous. This doesn’t make their idea any less valid though, so you may wish to consider having a platform for unsigned ideas. You could even contract someone from a third party organisation to listen to any thoughts your staff want to discuss. These could include confidential issues such as problems they have with the business structure or managers.
3. Keep Listening
When someone comes to you with a concern, it can be instinctual to jump in with a solution. But by doing this, you may not hear the full story, or cut the person off before they get to a bigger issue. You should therefore try to keep quiet, simply listening to what people have to say, before exploring options. The very act of listening can encourage your staff to talk.
4. Consider All Feedback
Even if it’s not something you want to hear, you should take all feedback seriously. Negative comments can often help better shape the business, if they are carefully considered. Treat any feedback as a gift and an opportunity to improve the organisation.
5. Be Conscious of Body Language
You’ll have undoubtedly heard the expression that ‘actions speak louder than words’. This can also be said of body language – your gestures and facial expressions can say a lot about what you’re thinking or feeling. Thus, when you’re listening to any feedback, it’s essential that your body language is open, and not closed off or disinterested.
6. Bounce Around Ideas in Small Groups
Some people may not feel comfortable providing feedback in front of the whole business, in an open forum. But they may be happy to give comments in a small group setting. We’re usually more comfortable around people we work closely with, so discussing issues with these people should be easier than with the entire company.
7. Reward Honesty
When your team speaks honestly, make sure you reward them for it. Make your gratitude for their contribution known, including it in their performance reviews and praising them in front of others. If other staff members see that honest opinions are rewarded, they’ll be more likely to offer their own thoughts.
8. Allow Time
In a group discussion or workshop, people don’t always rush to fill the silence. Long silences can therefore be common. It’s tempting to jump in yourself, in order to get the conversation flowing. But this can mean you take over the discussion. So even if it feels awkward, try to allow time for your staff to speak up.
9. Make Sure Everyone Has a Voice
If you’re holding a discussion group, it’s common that you’ll have one or two people who dominate the conversation. There is rarely an easy way to get your more quiet employees to open up, but they might do if given a space to talk. Try to get those with a louder voice to step back in feedback discussions, so that everyone gets a chance to say something.
10. Share Your Progress
One of the most important things you should do, after receiving feedback, is report back on what you’re doing regarding any issues raised. If your employees can see that their comments bring about tangible improvements, they are more likely to speak up about things in future. They’ll know that their opinions have been heard and taken seriously.