One of the most effective ways of getting your employees to think outside the box, innovate, improve processes and increase efficiencies is to start by asking questions, rather than providing answers.
Your staff members have a wealth of ideas for how to do their jobs better, but many might feel hesitant to make suggestions. Even if individual staff members are using innovative methods for managing their areas, by not encouraging more sharing of this information, you reduce the ability of all of your staff to use a wider variety of tools in their work.
Using the following six tips for encouraging your employees to innovate can help you build a stronger team and boost your productivity and efficiency.
#1 Acknowledge your Personal Growth
Are you a better manager than you were five years ago? That doesn’t mean you were a bad leader back then, it means you’ve grown as a professional. Will you be a better manager than you are in five years? I doubt you’ll answer, “No.”
Start any innovation campaign by showing how you’ve grown as a professional. Sharing examples of your personal development will help decrease the employee fear that comes when change is on the horizon. Give specific examples of techniques you previously used that were much less effective than the ones you’re using today. Show the increase in your productivity using a tool you rely on today compared to what you did before making your change. Tell your staff about one area of your performance that you’re working on improving and why this is important to you. This will encourage your younger staff to take more chances and your older workers not to fear change.
#2 Administer a Quiz
Before you start making suggestions, ask your staff a series of questions about how they solve problems. Ask if they use any personal procedures, processes or techniques for getting work done. Find out what technology they use and if they are using any unique knowledge they’ve learned from seminars or workshops. Make the survey anonymous and ask employees if they are aware of any technologies, equipment tools, resources or processes they feel could help them, but which they don’t use or haven’t learned. Ask respondents to identify themselves by a broad age category, such as baby boomer, millennial or Gen X.
#3 Let Staff Members Lead
If you learn that enough of your staff members want or need a skill or training in a certain area, allow other staff members who have that knowledge to conduct in-house training sessions. Look for patterns among generations. You might have younger staff members conduct informal training sessions on the use of email, IM, MS Office programs or social media. Older workers might share tips on business writing or interpersonal communications.
#4 Bring in Vendors
The companies that provide you with software, computers and other equipment and productivity tools are often happy to provide free in-house customer training sessions. They know the more effective you are with their products and services, the more likely you will re-order from them and provide good references.
#5 Pay for Training
List the various technologies and processes your staff use, identify those who rely on them heavily, and then assess their abilities in the use of these productivity tools. Determine if you need to send any of your staff members to local or out-of-town training seminars to boost their ability to be more creative and innovative in how they use the tools you’ve given them. Just because someone knows the basics of a software program doesn’t mean they understand all of the uses the maker intended for it.
#6 Recognize Innovators
If you have a regular newsletter, highlight examples of innovation each issue. If you don’t have an internal newsletter, send emails or memos that recognize the problem-solving achievements of employees. Explain what they did, the tools and techniques they used and provide instructions on how other staff members can use these tools and techniques.
If you have any suggestions for helping creating a workplace that embraces change and innovation, please fee free to share them.