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Why you should turn to employees for new ideas

The days of leaving your staff to do the work whilst you have a power lunch are over. Listening to employees is the new shouting at them. How else would you get the best out of Gen Y, who treat authority with the same sort of disdain as the rest of us treat a bad smell?

In case you missed it, collaboration is the new buzz word. Ideas come from the bottom – not the top – and this is not confined to the workplace. Crowd-funding, crowd-sourcing and peer-to-peer lending are all examples of people power in action, with the voice of many trumping the power of the few. It is a successful meshing of socialist ideals with capitalist outcomes. How do you find out the right answer? Ask a group, not an individual.

Smart companies are adopting a similar strategy with their staff. The theory is that if you allow your employees to express themselves, they will come up with good ideas for the business. This is not limited to asking for views on internal policies which focus on making the company a better place to work. Employers are now looking well beyond the board room for strategy, asking those at ground level what they would do if they were in control.

Two of the better exponents of this are Google and local company Atlassian. Both have long been at the forefront of treating their staff well, offering peer bonuses (where the team not the boss work out who is adding value, incentivising greater collaboration) and paying for all of their food. Google gives its staff an extra day off at Christmas called, modestly, Google Day.

But, they also go well beyond basic perks. Both have been at the forefront of giving staff time during the working week to work on their own projects, enabling them to express themselves through projects that they are passionate about. The obvious result is a happy workforce with staff working on things that they care about. The less obvious result is generating new ideas for the business – they are allowing staff to think creatively, encouraging ideas from a different perspective.

You do not need to be one of the world’s largest search engine to take this approach. Simple ideas like encouraging staff to submit ideas to management or competitions for innovative business development ideas can work. The key is listening to your staff and accepting that you don’t always know best.

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Edward Mallett

Edward Mallett

Edward Mallett is MD of <a href="http://employsure.com.au/">Employsure</a>.

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