In order to be a successful company you must create an environment that encourages the contribution and open sharing of information. As the CEO of a high growth company I found it necessary to implement very simple, but incredibly powerful software tools to help us create that environment. Each tool served the purpose of facilitating the contribution and open sharing of information throughout our company, but truth be told, they ended up breathing life into an amazing new corporate culture. Once these tools were used throughout our entire company, the culture improved drastically. The improvement in employee satisfaction, retention, and productivity quickly led to an improvement in external service quality and customer satisfaction, which led to growth in revenues and profitability. The result was as communication improved, culture improved, and so did the bottom line.
Here are four simple tools that can make all the difference for any company:
CEO Daily Message Board
I am a firm believer in the notion that leadership has to start at the top. If a CEO is unwilling to participate in the contribution and open sharing of information, then quite frankly, it just won't happen. As the CEO I felt the same burden that all CEOs feel of having too much on my plate and not enough hours in my day, so the thought of having to write a daily message to my employees seemed like an overwhelming and unachievable task. However, I came to realize that no matter what I had on my plate, nothing was going to be more important and impactful to the organization than the employees hearing directly from me each day. Not because I was special or more important than anyone else in the company, because I wasn't, but because I was the CEO and there is a responsibility and a duty to communicate that comes with that title that leaders shouldn't shrink away from. Our solution was to create an internal company homepage that gave links to all of our company information for employees and shortcuts to launch all of our internal systems so employees would need to start their day from this homepage each morning. Displayed front and center on this homepage was a CEO Daily Message for all employees to read. I wrote the messages myself each evening to post the following morning. Some messages were shorter and some were longer, but I posted every day five days a week. The messages contained anything from important companywide announcements, to a simple motivational thought, to concerns I had about the company, to mistakes I had made and what lessons I learned from them, to recognizing great performers, to sharing goals for our company, to reiterating the values. It didn't really matter how long the message was, what mattered was that they were consistent, and they were open, and they were genuine and real. Employees don't want to hear formal messages from their boss, they want a boss who is real, and human, and fallible, and who cares. The more I shared the more the employees got behind me and supported me as their leader, the quicker they forgave me when I made mistakes, and the more they cared about helping each other and the company succeed.
One of the most daunting things for new employees joining an organization, especially a large one, is to understand where every other employee fits in to the overall company structure and culture. An easy way to help facilitate this process is to have a robust online Employee Directory. However, in order to make it truly valuable it is necessary to give more detail than just a title, an email, and a phone extension. By adding information to each person's profile such as what responsibilities that person handles (such as the person who handles payroll matters, or employee benefits, or software questions, etc), and by including awards that person has received from the company and how long their tenure has been, it helps the other employees get a better sense of who to reach out to on matters they need assistance with. This can help eliminate bottlenecks and facilitate efficiency throughout the organization. In addition, by sharing a little about each person's personal interests and talents and hopes you can truly begin creating a culture where people come to know and care about one another's future success.
Employee Discussion Board
One thing that I found incredibly helpful as the CEO of a company was the implementation of an online Employee Discussion Board where any employee in our company could post questions or comments and every other employee in the company could respond with comments. I will admit that at first I was a bit apprehensive as to whether this Discussion Board would turn into a breeding ground for negativity and complaining, but those fears could not have been more wrong. In fact, what I found was that as one employee would post a complaint about something, ten other employees would quickly post solutions and encouragement on how to resolve their concern. In essence the employees themselves began resolving employee problems and complaints on their own through these open discussions occurring. Not only that, but as a management team we were able to stay completely aware of the feelings and concerns of the employees on a real-time basis which allowed us to better understand and more readily address their needs. This proved to be a tremendous value to our company as prior to having this Discussion Board, the feelings of discontent would have simmered and spread for weeks or even months, becoming somewhat of a cancer in the organization, before management even became aware of them. And as you'd imagine, resolving the problems once they have spread becomes infinitely more difficult to do. Allowing open discussions proved to be helpful to the employees, the management team, and to myself as the CEO. It was a huge morale boost for all of us to see all the positive reinforcement employees would offer one another on this Discussion Board on a daily basis. It made everyone feel more involved and needed throughout our entire organization and overall job satisfaction and employee retention improved drastically.
Company Idea Board
Sometimes we become so head down in our own jobs that creativity suffer and we have a hard time thinking out of the box. In order to overcome this problem we decided to implement an Idea Board. This online Idea Board was a place where anyone in the company could post any idea they had on how we could make the company better. It could be a software development improvement, or a policy change, or a customer service offering, or a payroll process change, or literally any idea they had that they felt would make us a better company. As each employee posted their ideas every other employee could go on and vote for it if they liked it, much like clicking a like on a Facebook or Instagram post. The idea list would grow daily and employees would vote when they felt an idea had merit. Then once a week the executive team would meet and review the top voted ideas currently on the Idea Board and determine which to implement. The amount of creativity and innovation that came from these ideas being posted was incredible. And the most surprising thing of all was that many of the very best ideas came from people whose current job duties had nothing to do with the problem they had an idea on how to solve. We had a receptionist suggest an amazing idea for streamlining a payment posting process for the finance department, and a mailroom employee suggested a programming change that improved customer service, and an operations employee came up with an incredible new marketing campaign. The ideas for improvement came from people all throughout the company on every aspect of the business. The idea gathering from every employee on every facet of the company, without constraining people to only think of improvements in their own areas, completely changed our entire company into a massive engine for innovation and creative ideas. And I cannot begin to express how rewarding it to witness employees self-confidence rising as they receive recognition for contributing ideas that really make a difference. The ownership employees begin to feel over the company's success is something even money can't buy.
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This post was originally featured on Forbes.com