Brainstorming and Employee Buy-In

Mar 18, 2024
employee buy-in

Buy-In (noun)

Definition: The agreement to support a decision.

Achieving employee buy-in is an ongoing process, and requires consistent effort, communication, and support. Brainstorming creates buy-in with employees. It also shows employees that you understand their value and are willing to take the time to explore options.

Brainstorming can also be extremely beneficial when dealing with conflict in the workplace, in that it quickly makes everyone feel heard and more likely to cooperate on the path to finding a mutually beneficial solution.

When we open up the option to brainstorm a better way before immediately determining a situation is not working with an employee, oftentimes we can learn options that we did not think of ourselves AND we get buy-in. A win win.

When employees are invited into a brainstorming conversation about the way the work is done, you will often see greater productivity and engagement as a result.

 A personal parenting story for context…

 I deliver a lot of management trainings to a variety of audiences. I have received comments that what I teach also translates to parenting! That is why I thought it would be beneficial to share this parenting story, as it relates. To be clear, I am not saying your employees are children or should be treated like your children! What I am saying is that these techniques are versatile and effective in many different situations – personally and at work, with all ages. Humans love to be invited to share their thoughts and opinions.

The problem

We used to have our kids do a list of about 7 Saturday morning chores, starting when they were 6 and 8 years old, because my husband and I believe that kids should help the family with things around the house. We required them to do these chores before heading out to play, watch screens, or engage in other activities during the day.

Saturday mornings were often met with groans and whining when they were reminded that they needed to do their chores before the fun stuff.

After a month or so of dealing with the pushback EVERY SINGLE SATURDAY, my husband and I put our heads together since this was clearly not working. But what to do? We weren’t just going to scrap our belief in the importance of chores!

Addressing the problem through brainstorming

We decided to call a family meeting. “Ok kids,” we said, “Saturday morning chores are not working.” This was met with cheers and hollers of happiness thinking that they won and hooray, no more chores!

No so fast, we told them. “We need to brainstorm a better way so chores still get done and we have less complaining.”

We asked them, “What better ideas for chores do you have?”

They had all sorts of ideas:

“No more chores!”

“1 chore once per month!”

“We do chores only when it gets really dirty in the house!”

Obviously, none of these were viable options, BUT we acknowledged their contributions and invited them to keep brainstorming to find a good solution. We reminded them that the chores still need to be done… that is non-negotiable.

The Solution

My son suggested that they do less chores during the weekdays, so after some more back and forth, we finally landed on them doing a few small chores every weekday and none on the weekend. We made a list of all the age-appropriate chores that they could choose from.

In the end, everyone felt good about the changes, and I know my kids appreciated the buy in we allowed them to have. They felt like they had a choice in the matter.

What has happened since

It has been nearly 5 years and it has been going great. Most mornings, the kids get up, have breakfast and immediately bang out their small list of chores with plenty of time to get to school. Are they always happy about doing these chores? Of course not, but we as their parents keep supporting them and helping them to manage their time to be successful with their morning schedules including chores. We also manage our reactions when there is resistance.

Applying this to the workplace

At work, when we see that something is not working with an employee’s performance, this same brainstorming approach can be very effective.

Here are the steps to take:

1. Announce that you would like to have a brainstorming session to solve a recurring problem. Invite applicable parties to that brainstorming meeting.

2. When the group is together, depending on the size, write what the problem is at the top of a paper or whiteboard.

3. Invite those present to present their solutions and ideas to solve the problem. Use visual aids such as flip charts, colored post-its, or digital collaboration tools to document ideas that come up when brainstorming in real-time. (This visual representation helps participants see their ideas being considered seriously and reinforces that you see their value and their contributions. This aso works great with parenting!)

Noticing that things are not going well, calling it out and inviting the employees to brainstorm a better way can be extremely valuable and well worth the time.

Will you give it a try?

Don’t just keep dealing with poor performance or conflict at your workplace until you are bitter, frustrated, and ready to fire someone.

Rather, we empower you to use the techniques offered here to address it knowing that if you do, you may just find a smoother way forward. Someone may still need to move on in the end, but this step at least gives you and them a chance to see what options exist. 

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