As an associate level employee you often hear conversations about policies or procedures that your peers don’t like or think could be improved. You may have followed a procedure for some time, even though you knew it didn’t make sense and wondered if management was even aware that the same goal could be accomplished more effectively a different way? The question is do you really have to be in a high level position to make changes in your organization? I will say it’s certainly easier when you have the ability to communicate regularly with the powers that be, but those people aren’t the only ones who can–and do–make things better.
1. Be a top performer. No one listens to suggestions about work-life balance from someone who comes in late every day and does poor work. You want your suggestions to be taken seriously? Do good work.
2. Do your homework. Look outside your department. Especially in a big company, departments can differ wildly. Even though everyone may have the same employee handbook, managers do things differently. Before you make a new suggestion, see what other people are doing. If you can show that another department has implemented this program and the people are productive and the earth has not ceased rotating, half your case is made for you.
3. Pick one area you want to improve. If you go into your boss with a list of 25 things you want fixed, she’ll tune you out before you get to item 3. Pick one thing. After that’s fixed, go onto thing 2.
4. Be willing to do the work. You can’t just make a suggestion today and expect it to be done tomorrow. You’ll have to write-up a plan that will demonstrate the costs and benefits. Don’t leave off the down side to your plan or no one will take you seriously. You will have to plead your case, so make your presentation a good one. When you do your research, be willing to find out that your “fabulous” idea is one that was tried in the past and failed miserably. If that happens, either demonstrate how this is different, or drop it and try something else.
5. Companies often move slowly, so don’t get crazy when it takes a while to get things done. You may have to present your idea two or three times. You may also have to meet with more than one, two, or three different people. Be patient and good luck.