When it comes to employee morale, one sure way to kill the vibe is to encourage a top-down culture in which the bosses make all the decisions and cares little about what the rest of the staff has to say. While not every decision in the workplace can be made through a democratic process, many company leaders could do a little better in that department. By encouraging a more democratic workplace, the happy result can be more engaged, more productive employees who feel they have a stake in the company’s success.
Here are some tips for getting started with creating a more democratic workplace.
Get face time with every employee
Show your employees you care about their input by having monthly or quarterly "rap sessions" where you meet them individually and get feedback about things that are working well, and things that aren’t. Ask open-ended questions and maintain open body language when asking for employee feedback, encouraging them to tell you more honestly what’s on their mind. This individual attention can show your workers that you care about their input.
Vote on major decisions by committee
When there’s a big company decision to make, it doesn’t have to happen behind closed doors. Transparency and explanation about major changes on the horizon or decisions you’re trying to make about the direction of the company can be shared with your staff. For some big decisions, it’s even appropriate to allow your staff to vote on whether to take one direction or another. If you anticipate a close vote, have a plan in place for how you’ll break a tie or how you’ll handle the final decision-making, such as allowing members of upper management to vote a second time, or perhaps even reserving the final decision for yourself.
Use surveys to poll the group about logos, graphics, policy changes, employee morale or other tems not worthy of a meeting.
Not every decision, you make, requires a company-wide meeting or a gathering in the conference room, but you can still get your employees to weigh in on things that affect the company’s image or its operations. Use an online survey tool, a basic voting box, or simply send an email to your staff asking for feedback.
Advertise when you’ve taken employees’ suggestions to heart.
When you do make a decision on that new company logo or whether you’re going to go public or remain a privately-held company, share how your employees helped you make that decision. Send out an email and mention specific insights a particular employee shared, for example, or remind the staff that everyone had a chance to vote on what you eventually decided.
Be transparent about decisions leaders make without employee input.
Sometimes you’re going to need to make company decisions without the input of the rank and file -- but that doesn’t mean you have to leave them in the dark about the thought processes. If you make a big decision, hold a meeting and explain the steps that went into your decision. If you struggled with one side or another, mentioning your thought processes and how you struggled can help you appear more human, even in the face of something as difficult as layoffs or a decision not to offer holiday bonuses.
When your employees are empowered to feel like they’re part of your company’s decision making, you may be surprised at how much inspiration, innovation and motivation can come out of it.