Working at Axonify, we talk about frontline employee communication a lot.
You might even say we have a bit of an axe to grind with ineffective communication. Fortunately, the world of siloed locations and fractured organizations is a thing of the past when you’ve got an amazing enablement tool that connects frontline employees to head office (too soon for the hard sell? 😏).
But when we’re talking about communication, there’s one thing that organizations often forget about: idea sharing. It goes by other names: best practice sharing, upward feedback, idea harvesting. Whatever you call it, it’s an integral part of any organization’s effective employee communication strategy—and sadly, a part that gets overlooked.
But when you finally allow for good ideas to flow freely, magic happens. Here are four reasons that every organization should foster a culture of idea sharing across their teams:
1. Encouraging idea sharing identifies and fills knowledge gaps
One way that sharing best practices can help your organization is through the identification (and patching) of knowledge gaps. When teams can share best practices, it provides the opportunity for other employees to self-identify and correct gaps in their knowledge and capabilities. Employees can recognize their own areas of weakness and address them with minimal intervention from head office.
Here’s an example: one location of a retail brand has discovered a next-level merchandising technique that is making a product fly off the shelves—so they share the idea with other locations across the country. Maybe at one location, the associates look at the idea and think, Woah…We’ve set up this merchandising all wrong! From there, the location can address their knowledge gap and fix their display—without head office ever stepping in. That’s the magic happening.
Should this self-identification among workers fail, sharing best practices still leaves the door wide open for managers to recognize these gaps within their team, and correct them—and the same goes for executives at a company-wide level. When employees, managers and organizations can implement strategies to expose and address these gaps, they maximize productivity company-wide.
2. It surfaces new (and revenue-boosting!) ideas
Maybe what your organization needs is a spark of creativity. Sometimes the pure legacy of head office can impact a company’s ability to see the more creative or innovative ideas. Luckily, sharing best practices is the kindling that ignites this fire—from the frontline.
Historically, when the head office wants to, say, increase sales of add-on item X, they might have a brainstorming session with managers to discuss strategies for promoting this item with their teams, believing this is where employees need to improve. This doesn’t lead to really forward-thinking, innovative ideas.
Now imagine corporate wants to increase sales of add-on item Y, so they start an open forum directly with their frontline workers to discuss promotion strategies. Free from the archetypical constraints of the corporate hierarchy, your associates are able to do some creative thinking outside the box. Not only are these employees tapped into the pulse of the customer or guest, but they have firsthand knowledge of where process improvements can be made.
This type of upward employee feedback with actionable idea generation is worth its weight in gold if it means that the company can implement this change—and see a swift lift in sales. And bonus: encouraging feedback (and actioning it!) helps your people feel a sense of ownership and empowerment on the job.
3. It strengthens your workplace community
As a CSM-turned-instructional designer, I’ve seen time and time again that frontline employees have an intense desire to build an employee community. I’ve had the opportunity to help countless workplace communities come together, and I’ve found that by simply providing a space for them to do so, workforces innately form this workplace community of their own accord.
That’s where idea sharing comes into play. When companies allow for information to be shared, it breeds this sense of collaboration and community between employees and teams. Idea sharing acts as an almost instinctual way for employees to form this close-knit community, nurturing that sense of “we’re all in this together,” which in turn boosts employee engagement and loyalty.
Also: every employee brings different skills, talents and perspectives. Sharing their unique knowledge and points of view can also help one employee leverage the talents of another to improve on their own challenge areas.
Without an avenue to make this community-building organic, collaboration on this scale—across locations, states, provinces and countries—is almost impossible.
4. Gain a line of sight into morale and employee engagement
Sharing ideas also gives head office a line of sight into morale, employee sentiment and engagement on a level that would otherwise be concealed. While sharing best practices is powerful in its own right, providing this type of insight into morale and employee engagement is a compelling facet of this opportunity in and of itself.
With idea sharing processes in place, corporate teams are able to easily identify locations that aren’t engaging in the process, and target them for additional support. If sharing drops off, it can also act as a flag for corporate to come in and energize their teams.
In other words: sharing ideas allows head office to tap into the spirit and attitude of the frontline. You can gain a sense of team morale and outlook, and shine a light onto the esprit de corps to help address issues when needed. It’s not clairvoyance, but it’s about as close as you can get.
Idea sharing reveals so many advantages and opportunities otherwise invisible and untapped in organizations. Ignoring the possibilities that come with opening up your organization and allowing your frontline workforce to be heard is tantamount to keeping a treasure buried when you’re holding the map in your hands.
Whether your frontline requires knowledge gaps to be patched, a community to be strengthened or efficiencies and competencies to be reinforced, creating an idea sharing culture can be your guide.