Crispin Manners
Written by
Crispin Manners

One thing that has always surprised me has been the propensity for leaders to turn to outsiders to get advice on what an organisation should do to improve its performance or innovate its products, services or processes. That may seem a strange thing to say as someone who has built his career on providing advice. But  the missing part of the first sentence is … without first asking the people that work in the organisation.

It’s my firm belief that everyone that works in an organisation will have at least one good idea on how to improve something. And, if every leader took advantage of this collective innovative potential, the results would be transformational.

I’ve seen so many examples of great employee ideas as Chairman of the Alliance to know this must be worth doing right now.  For example, an employee at Sanofi help to save wasted vaccines with a very simple idea about labelling. Another employee at Waitrose saved over £100k by reducing wasted paper for cash register receipts just by removing spaces on the receipt!

Now’s the time to unlock the innovative capability of everyone that works for you

We are all beginning to see how far-reaching the impact of Covid-19 will be. It is changing almost everything – and very quickly. But this should show us that change, and rapid change, is possible. So why don’t we all use this as a catalyst to really challenge what our organisations do and how we do it? And why don’t we ask our people for their advice? After all they are the ones who run the processes, engage with customers, supplies, colleagues.

There is an inspirational article from the Harvard Business Review entitled Roaring out of Recession, which charts the leadership response to various recessions. It shows that you can’t just cut or promote your way out of a recession. Instead you need to think about how the recession/crisis has changed the world that you will emerge into and adapt what you do to fit that new reality. The article’s authors call this a progressive response because it combines sensible cost reductions with smart innovation.

I believe your people can help you do both – identify sensible cost savings and innovate what you do. All you need to do is ask them.

People need to feel connected to the organisation, and what it’s trying to achieve, to give their best ideas

One of the many positive impacts of this terrible crisis is that it is forcing us all to think about what really matters. We are seeing people putting new effort into staying connected with people they care about. This isn’t just about family and friends but about colleagues too. We are seeing tighter bonds being formed. These bonds, forged in adversity, will help an organisation emerge stronger from the crisis – but only if people feel connected with the organisation and its leaders.

That’s why I think it is important to identify and measure how connected your people feel and capture some of their best ideas for emerging stronger from the crisis. For example, you can do that by using free survey tools. Here is an example of one free survey I think captures all essential aspects of helping people feel connected and creates a great platform to harness their feedback with 14 really useful questions, which you can delete, edit or add to as you see fit

The questions include:

  • During the work from home period, how can we help you feel really connected with the business?

If people really understand your values and feel connected to them, you will see responses that reinforce these values.

  • If you were to invest the time you were spending travelling to and from work for your personal benefit, e.g. reading a new book or learning a new skill, what could you do?

This shows that you think reskilling for the changed world is important and encourages people to start that journey with your encouragement.

  • What area of the business are you most worried about now that you are working from home?

This is a vital barometer about where you may need to give attention. But it will also surface anxiety levels. Don’t forget, if you want to emerge stronger from the crisis, you will need people who are both physically and mentally healthy so they can rise to the challenges ahead.

  • In adapting to the new environment, where do you see opportunities for our business to emerge stronger and better?

This is one of a number of ‘advice’ questions designed to unlock innovation and it will act as encouragement to recognise that it will be essential for the business to change what it does moving forward.

Personally, I would add a few more explicit innovation questions that engender the ‘progressive’ response to the crisis that the HBR article encourages.

These include:

  1. What sensible cost reductions can we make now that won’t harm our ability to deliver our Purpose?
  2. How can we adapt our internal processes so we are more effective at satisfying changing customer needs?
  3. What ideas do you have for new products or services we should create so we emerge stronger from the crisis?

The great thing is you can tailor the questions for your business.

Finally, you could also use the survey to connect your people with the good you want to do as an organisation. For example, you could ask if they are now caring for someone while working from home. I discovered this week that there are 7 million unpaid carers in the UK who are supported by Carers Trust. Covid-19 has confronted people with the need to care for others and this may be something that becomes part of the new reality of your business.

Because I want every organisation to emerge stronger from the crisis, with happy and involved people, I’m happy to help (free) any organisation that wants advice on the best questions to ask. Please contact me at [email protected]

This article was originally posted here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/you-want-know-how-emerge-stronger-from-covid-crisis-ask-manners/