Want to keep up with what your employees really think? Establish an employee sounding board, says Sally Tassani, founder of Tassani Communications Inc., in Chicago.
Tassani came upon the idea haphazardly. "There I was in a meeting with my key managers trying to figure out what employees wanted," she says. "I realized I should ask them myself. Boy, was I surprised." She learned in her first meeting with employees that a benefits package she had been agonizing over wasn't worth the effort. What they really wanted was more access, inspiration, and positive reinforcement from their managers. These were at least as important as a better bonus system.
"The meeting was so successful that I decided to do it on a regular basis," Tassani says. Now, she meets with a board of about 10 employees twice monthly.
To create the board, each department head recommended a nonmanagerial employee who has good communication skills and was caught up on work. The board even includes the company's clerical workers. "It eats up about an hour every other week, so I want the most efficient, bright, and capable employees," Tassani says.