Despite what are arguably some green shoots of recovery, times are still tough in many organisations – particularly certain parts of the public sector where cuts have been toughest. The streets are hardly awash with cash for those expensive external consultants to come and tell you how to enhance your organisational performance. One often underutilised route for enhancing an organisation is its own staff. After all, they see the organisation every day, at close quarters, at its best and worst. And across your organisation your staff’s collective knowledge covers your processes and operations end to end.

So are you doing enough to solicit suggestions from your staff on how you improve? Even if you think you have this nailed it’s always worth a quick health check.

Here are 6 ways to get started in creating a culture which maximises opportunities to learn from staff (or helps to a health check in this area).

Make It Known – A great starting point is to make it known to staff that you welcome suggestions on improvements and enhancements. It sounds blindingly obvious but it’s a basic step too many organisations miss. It’s so easy to just drift into a situation where you assume staff will step forward with ideas. Don’t!

Avoid Criticism – Those familiar with De Bono’s six hats will know the Yellow Hat of optimism. If your staff start being brave enough to step forward with ideas more often then make sure the first step your organisation takes is of appreciation. Not all ideas are great, but great ideas often come after lots of not so great so make sure you encourage people to keep trying.

Provide the MeansNot everyone thinks or expresses themselves in the same way. Make sure you provide the means for as many staff as possible to surface and share ideas. Some may be really willing to sit in a group and voice ideas, others may want a more private and means. Suggestion boxes, forums, lunch time discussions, online systems. You should not be short of way.

Follow Through – Make sure there is a way of developing and implementing the best ideas. After you have got so much valuable feedback it would be a shame if none of it sees the light of day.

Show It Is Valued – Find ways to demonstrate very publicly that ideas are being considered and put into practice. Share them, pin them up, broadcast them and celebrate them!

Share the Warmth – Make sure when successful ideas are used that the credit is shared with all who have contributed – again as publicly as possible.

So what next? Make it a Habit – Make sure when you have done the above that it sticks as part of your culture and isn’t just a one-off or brief programme. Learning, evolving and developing is a continuous process. Suggestions for improvements come in all shapes and sizes, and if you inculcate some or all of the above they will start coming in a steady stream from all directions.

As a bonus if you execute the above successfully you will almost certainly end up with a more engaged team.