Real business story

Employee insight is an essential part of business planning

Employees can offer valuable insights into your business. Their ideas and opinions should always be taken into account when planning and setting goals.
James McNicol – EA Change

James McNicol always ensures the insights he's able to elicit from his team are actioned

Often business leaders are blind to the things that seem so obvious to employees. By empowering staff to raise issues and share ideas, you can identify new opportunities and resolve issues that affect productivity and morale.

By inviting your team into the business planning process, your plans become more informed and staff are often more engaged with achieving goals. When employees feel they are listened to and understood, it can create a sense of involvement and shared vision.

We spoke to one business which puts employees at the heart of business planning.

Listen to staff

Employees can be a valuable source of ideas and often have an intrinsic understanding of what can be improved within your business.

For recruitment agency EA Change, listening to employees has helped to shape business planning. The recruitment specialist has identified several new business opportunities this way.

“We talk constantly. If anyone has an idea of a new market or opportunity, that can be voiced at any time and it will be taken seriously,” said James McNicol, managing director.

One employee came up with the idea of sending a video clip of shortlisted candidates to the client along with their CV. In the clip, which was recorded during a Microsoft Teams interview, all candidates would answer the same question.

“This new approach gave our client a real flavour of the candidates and massively reduced the number of first interviews that were needed,” James said.

As employees are involved with the day-to-day duties of your business, they can often point out when things aren't working too.

“Something that came up in meetings was that staff were having issues with the technology provided. Old and clunky kit was frustrating employees. So we rolled out brand spanking new laptops. It’s development, listening to where people think we could be stronger,” James said.

When setting goals or strategising, employees can often give you a much-needed reality check.

Business leaders need to be visionaries but staff can tell you whether they think targets and goals are achievable.

By getting staff involved and in full agreement with goal setting and strategy, you inspire motivated employees that feel like they’re part of pushing the business forwards.

“Everyone sits next to each other. It’s a team ethos we’ve created and maintained. If anyone’s unhappy it’ll be quickly flagged and talked about,”

James McNicol, MD, EA Change

Build trust with your employees

The only way to get employees involved in your business is to build a culture of trust. Encourage staff to share their ideas, issues and experiences and listen when they do.

EA Change has two stand-up meetings per day. They also have regular one-to-one meetings and weekly get togethers. In these meetings people can discuss anything they like and the team is encouraged to raise challenges they are facing.

James added one-to-one meetings provide an opportunity for staff that might not feel comfortable making suggestions in a group setting.

“We have one-to-ones where we talk about how we're doing things and encourage people to talk about processes and things like that,” he said.

The team also adopts a non-hierarchical approach where everybody shares the same space so all team members are on an equal footing.

“Everyone sits next to each other. It’s a team ethos we’ve created and maintained. If anyone’s unhappy it’ll be quickly flagged and talked about,” James said.

Finally, James stressed that employees need to see that the suggestions they make result in changes. Otherwise, they will likely become despondent about the process.

“If it requires an action, if someone brings up an issue in a situation like a one-to-one, we’ll always come back to them and say we’ll do this by this date, so it’s not just a black hole. It has to be addressed and then fed back.”

Use data and feedback to shape your business planning

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  • website:
  • location: South West (England)
  • business size: 10-49 People
  • business type: Recruitment Services

Top three takeaways

Inviting employees to share ideas can often help to identify new business opportunities.

Because staff are involved with the day-to-day activities of the business, they can have the best insight into what’s working and what’s not.

Regular communication and a culture of trust means staff are confident to share their opinions and ideas.