There’s a certain perception of the company suggestion box—that of a deep, cobweb-filled well awash with unknown complaints and untouched criticisms.
But what if there were a way to direct that criticism to be more constructive? Anonymous feedback loops can often feel intimidating since they’re one of the few chances where employees can utilize that anonymity to unload their grievances. But while there’s certainly a need for anonymous feedback in the workplace (especially when it comes to human relations), perhaps when it comes to process improvement, there’s greater participation when the system is designed to encourage more ownership.
The founders of HNI thought there might be something to this idea of ownership. Ever since the first handbook was published in 1947, employees of HNI have been referred to as Members. Founder Max Stanley said that Member “projects a greater sense of belonging and participation.” And in order to cement full-fledged membership, HNI initiated the Member Implemented Idea (Mi Idea) program and redefined what participation could look like.
44,000 HNI Member ideas were submitted in 2017
70% of those ideas have since been implemented
In the program, members are encouraged to submit ideas for improving work, workflow, and workplace. No idea is too large or too small, and all Mi Ideas are celebrated. And what’s more? Members are the critical part of the process, expected to help implement solutions large and small.
But it’s worth noting—authenticity is key. For such programs to succeed, the program itself must reflect and align with the fundamental values of the organization. Stanley and co-founders of HNI, for example, insisted that one of HNI’s basic truths is that the welfare of the company and its members is interdependent. Additional fundamental beliefs to support progressive membership within HNI include:
- Productivity driven by wholesome, open-minded relationships
- Fair treatment for all as well as an equitable share in organizational success
- Individual responsibility assumed by each member for quality and efficiency
- Customer satisfaction as the ultimate judge of a good product and the only path to true success
And the results? The benefits of tapping into these ideas? They come from the people immersed in the process or, truly, the problem. Be it a plant production line or an invoicing process, it’s the Members invested in the outcome and designing the solution who are best positioned to see room for improvement.
A meaningful company culture is developed through programs that support everyone from any team weighing in for the betterment of the organization. And HNI is proud to tout a culture that’s thrived by tapping into the wellspring of Member ideas.
To learn more about our own workplace at HNI headquarters, click here.