As a leader, it’s important to ensure that every voice at your company is heard, no matter the size of the team. Barriers should be broken between upper and lower management, if they exist, to allow for the free flow of information and ideas. But it can still sometimes be difficult for lower-level employees to feel their ideas are being heard all the way at the top.
Below, nine Young Entrepreneur Council members share specific steps leaders can implement to encourage the sharing of ideas across all levels of the organization.
1. Encourage Employees To Speak Out
Consistently model and reaffirm the attitude you want your workplace environment to reflect. Recently our company had an all-hands meeting where we reiterated our open door policy and encouraged employees to engage in a Q&A. We are not so naive to think that all questions and concerns would be fielded there, but it did reemphasize the attitude that we want to be woven into the fabric of our company. While given the floor, we were also surveying the employees to see if their body language indicated that they may have had a concern that they were just not comfortable voicing in the larger group. We then were able to follow up with them in a smaller environment. We are also in the process of implementing 360 feedback, where we can get more authentic and anonymous feedback. – Liam Leonard, DML Capital
2. Use Both Formal And Informal Communications
We have found that our approach of using informal and formal methods of soliciting information is helpful to us and gets us a solid amount of feedback on a frequent basis. We like receiving feedback from our employees, which helps us determine if an issue is isolated or system-wide and something we need to spend more time on. One thing you can do to help your CEO with communicating back and forth effectively is to consider creating an email that’s titled something like “Ask Our CEO,” that way the messages can be supported and managed with an assurance that the CEO is responding to these emails in a timely and efficient manner. – Jennifer A Barnes, Optima Office, Inc
3. Host Regular Meetings With Upper Management Present
Roundtable focus groups or town hall meetings that focus on specific themes or issues that the company faces help to promote communication at all levels. It is important that these meetings include people from all areas of the business and from all levels of employment. There should also be management champions to help gather the outcomes of these meetings and escalate them to the top. Better yet is when the person at the top comes to these meetings themselves. Seeing and speaking directly with upper management can really help people feel heard and be better engaged. It is important that once actionable points have been agreed upon, change must be implemented and led from the top. There is no use in making everyone’s voice heard if it doesn’t lead to real and lasting change. – Maria Thimothy, OneIMS
4. Try Gratitude-Based Daily Huddles
Our law firm has daily huddles where each person says how they’re feeling that day, what their KPIs are in comparison to the day before, any roadblocks they have so other team members can help if they are able and one thing they are grateful for. The trend is that everyone feels seen and heard and people feel connected on more than just a professional level. We find ourselves drawn to people who are authentic, and this practice helps our team members exercise that quality and also have integrity with their words and how they show up to work and in the world. We maintain a company culture where we practice gratitude daily as we recover from a long pandemic that has become the normal way of life. – Givelle Lamano, Lamano Law Office
5. Rely On Specific Organizational Software For Transparency
Use software like Trello so that the company’s projects are public to all workers and everyone can give their opinion. These tools are really useful and interesting because in each task—whether it is proposed, in progress or finished—everyone can leave notes with their comments and this allows even the upper management to take everyone into account. It also helps that each opinion is written because, in addition to being a great support to our fragile memories, this allows each idea to be taken into account each time the project is reviewed. – Kevin Ryan Tao, NeuEve
6. Create Employee Surveys To Gather Opinions Quickly
Employee surveys are a convenient yet low-cost way to get their opinions. Companies can collect ideas faster and more objectively this way. Surveys can be used to find out what employees need, what they are frustrated with and what can be improved within the organization. To gain a better understanding of employee preferences, consider asking numerous questions. Surveys make it faster and easier for people to provide their opinions, no matter what size the company is. Some of the advantages of surveys include a faster collection of opinions, quicker sorting and precise reports for upper management. Moreover, questionnaires give employees a sense of anonymity, increasing their tendency to express themselves. You can also motivate employees to take part in surveys by rewarding them. – Liam Martin, TimeDoctor.com
7. Start With Open Forums And Q&A Sessions
You want to have open forums and Q&A sessions with employees and top-level managers and allow everyone a chance to speak. Do not necessarily pre-plan topics or questions. Each question or statement should also be given an honest response in order to encourage others to speak up. You will also want to change up the format, medium and privacy levels of these engagements to ensure everyone has a chance to speak in a way they are most comfortable with. Respond to written questions, those held in in-person meetings, as well as those in both anonymous and open settings. This way, all issues can be brought up and addressed in a way that is conducive to employees’ natures. – Salvador Ordorica, The Spanish Group LLC
8. Host Events That Suspend The Hierarchy
Host events during office hours that suspend the hierarchy and structure of your organization to encourage communication. You may not immediately get lots of people speaking up with their ideas in these events, but eventually, people become more comfortable approaching managers and executives with ideas off the clock in a natural way. These events can be incubators for new ideas and teams to emerge in a really relaxed way. This organic communication fosters listening at all levels. If you do not know where to start with these, try a weekly Friday coffee break. We have a “cafecito” break in Miami, if not a more organized event, and it has yielded some really great communication and has been great for culture. – Matthew Capala, Alphametic
9. Build A Clear Procedural Path
Dedicated safe spaces and safe people employees can bring their concerns to are crucial. By taking the step to carve out the right safe points of contact and procedural ways to voice ideas, you’re building a path of communication and trust for the team. When your crew knows how to get their ideas considered and who to talk to, you’re breaking down any communication barriers from the start, making the flow of your company communication more cohesive. This cohesion permeates the institution meaning ideas move and flow up and down the hierarchy. – Emily Stallings, Casely, Inc.