Listen to your employees’ ideas

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Published on 2 February 2015

Every single person on Earth has the potential to come up with a million dollar idea, but the reason not everyone finds success is because most people don’t know what to do with their ideas. 

Recognising this, we launched Virgin StartUp – a not-for-profit organisation that helps UK entrepreneurs with the funding, resources and advice they need to make their business idea a reality.

The Branson Centres of Entrepreneurship and Virgin Unite are also working hard to support entrepreneurs in South Africa, the Caribbean and all over the world. These teams do a wonderful job to help budding entrepreneurs, but they are not the only businesses within the Group bringing people’s ideas to life.

Richard Branson speaking into a microphone on a panel with 3 other men.
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We encourage all of our companies to seek feedback from their employees and implement great ideas where possible. The latest example of this comes from the innovative and open-minded team at Virgin Trains.

Last April, Bethan Patfield was asked if she had any ideas on how to improve Virgin Trains’ Voyager products. As a front line member, Bethan noticed that renowned chef Bryn Williams of Odette’s had become a regular customer, travelling to and from London to set up a another restaurant in Colwyn Bay. Bethan, with the help of Vicki Jones and the team at Holyhead, suggested a collaboration with Bryn to liven up menu options on our services to and from North Wales.

The food development team thought it a great idea and reached out to Bryn via Twitter. Open to the idea, Bryn agreed to meet with Bethan and the team. Passion and creativity flowed in that meeting, and Bryn came on board. Numerous meetings and tasting sessions later – the team have assured me it was very hard work – the idea has been turned into a fantastic menu of flavoursome, hearty meals that have proved a big hit with our customers. To the delight of our staff, Bryn even spent a day demonstrating the food. 

A group of Virgin Trains team smile around a dinner table
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A woman in a Virgin Trains uniform sits at a kitchen table eating
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Virgin Trains has a long track-record of listening to their staff to innovate their product. In September last year, I had the pleasure of surprising some star members, who have come up with wonderful innovations of their own.

Retail Ream Leader at Manchester Piccadilly, Charles Johnson had the great idea to rearrange the way the booking office is laid out, so customers find it easier to talk to staff. Train Manager at Preston, Darren Robinson came up with a plan to sell weekday first upgrades at the time of train departure; leading to more happy passengers, fewer empty seats, value for money and customer satisfaction. Train Manager at Manchester Piccadilly, Anna Holly re-imagined our seat reservation download system and improved download success rates from 72% to 90%. While pre-boarding team member at London Euston, Kay Hayes came up with the smart innovation of boarding vulnerable passengers earlier. 

These are just some of the ways that Virgin supports and encourages the ingenuity of our people. No company should ignore their staff’s feedback and suggestions, and no staff member should silence their ideas or innovations. No matter how big, small, outrageous or conventional an idea may be, there’s always an opportunity to turn it into a reality.

Have you taken a great idea to your company, and seen it realised? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.