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December 1999

Managing: Employee Ideas

Listen & Learn

Take advantage of employees' ideas on how you can save and make money

When Stuller Settings instituted an employee suggestion program, it had no idea how much gold dust and scraps it lost in non-manufacturing areas. Because of an employee's suggestion, the company found that gathering gold from air filters and cleaning debris in those areas resulted in thousands of dollars of savings. The gold was traveling through the air vents from the manufacturing area, as well as being tramped in on people's shoes.

For James Louviere, who manages the employee suggestion program for Stuller, this is a perfect example of why it pays all companies, even the smallest retailer, to ask for employee ideas. In the past two years alone, Stuller has received more than 1,000 ideas, used half of them and paid $2.5 million in bonuses, which represented millions more in profits for the company. But there are some ground rules.

How Creativity Gets Buried

Ideas are like buried treasure, Louviere said at the PrimeTime Fall Marketplace & Conference in Las Vegas, where he presented a seminar sponsored by the magazine and coordinated by Charlotte Preston Catalysts, White Bear Lake, MN. To dig out good ideas, you have to be an encourager. Here are "discourager" statements managers often make, followed by Louviere's more positive suggestions:

  • I already pay him a salary. He owes me the ideas. A better approach is to accept the fact money and attention are keys that unlock the ideas in your employee's head.
  • I guess I have to pay him, but I don't like it. Pay the money gladly. Employees who give you good ideas will save you money.
  • I already know the best way to do things. You don't have all the good ideas. The people who work in the trenches often know best how to improve a job and save money.
  • We get lots of ideas, but some of them point out problems I don't want to know about. Resist the temptation to kill the messenger. Be grateful the situation will be corrected.
  • All I need are people to work without thinking; they can hang their brains on the coat rack when they come to work. Discover the power of each worker's brain.
  • I'll listen to their ideas, but do I have to act on them? Your employees will feel insulted and disrespected if you don't institute the best ideas.

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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