I have spoken to many employees in various business contexts who feel that their voices are not heard — their ideas are not listened to. As such, they feel that they don’t have a real contribution to make, feel undervalued and overlooked. Typically, this translates into despondency, and many leave their energy and passion at home when coming to work. This is unfortunate as many are highly skilled, adept at problem-solving and creative in fulfilling organisational goals. They certainly have a few good ideas that can be applied to enhancing systems, processes, and products.
If you are one of those employees who feel that your voice is not being heard, the following guidelines are important:
- “Your idea” is not as much about you as it is about business enhancement — place the idea in the context of business growth and enhancement, not in elevating yourself. Bosses will more readily listen when they perceive that you have business interests at heart.
- Ensure that your competence and credibility are intact — your reputation and influence-ability come from the place of being known for excellence in what you do and trustworthiness in whom you are. A boss is more likely to listen to someone of competence and character.
- Do your homework and then present a business case — develop a pilot project to test your idea, even involving the help of some of your colleagues to get this done. Only then go and offer your idea to your boss, illustrating the results that you got in the pilot exercise and demonstrating how this will impact business metrics (for example, reduction of waste, enhanced machine performance, better safety practises, better production methods, etc.).
- Ask permission to apply the idea on the production line — getting the blessing of the boss is important as s/he will have to take joint responsibility for any outcome (good or bad).
The acceptance of an idea does not come from coercion or force, but from a good business case. Make sure that your idea makes excellent business sense.
- Write down all the ideas that you feel are meaningful
- Choose the one idea that you feel is going to have the most impact
- Write down your proposed presentation to your boss under the following headings:
- What the idea is — outline the concept (e.g.: waste reduction in the cutting and trimming section)
- What the idea will involve — the changes that need to be made to accomplish the realisation of the idea (e.g.: the installation of a firmer guide to align cardboard on the machine)
- Who will be part of implementing the trial/pilot or the actual “go live” of the idea — the departments that will have to be involved to realise the idea (e.g.: engineering, maintenance and the operational team that works on the machine)
- What you are suggesting that the business impact will be — state what the current business results are and the kind of improvements you expect after the implementation of the idea (e.g.: we are currently operating at 5% waste — I believe we can bring this down to only 1% waste after the implementation of the guide)
4. Construct your conversation and practise it
5. After your presentation to your boss, ask for permission to put your idea through a trial or to “go live”
If your boss still has concerns, suggest that you will find ways of alleviating those concerns and get back to the boss with solutions. Don’t give up as every employee has a few good suggestions that can be applied to enhancing systems, processes, and products.