an employee being proactive at a meeting

How to Make Employees More Proactive

Proactivity vs reactivity is often one of the key differentiators for company growth. Proactive behavior in employees addresses further crises, circumstances, and growth opportunities, whereas reactive behavior comes as a direct response to an event that has already occurred.

Proactivity, as such, is a predictor of success and is a quality that companies should look for when hiring and developing their workforce.

Encouraging employee proactivity within the workplace enables external and internal rewards. In addition to driving productivity and revenue, fostering a space of creativity and growth for employees allows them to feel more secure in the workplace in addition to being more valued.

This enables a greater sense of employee satisfaction, and thus employee retention.

In this article, we’ll be discussing five ways you can reform your company to better encourage proactivity within your employees.

Promote a growth mindset

The first step is to create a work environment that supports and encourages proactive behavior. This starts with promoting a growth mindset among your team members.

People with a growth mindset believe that their abilities and intelligence can be developed through hard work, good strategies, and feedback from others. This belief leads them to be more proactive, as they see taking initiative and learning from setbacks as key to their success.

With a fixed mindset, however, people believe that they’ve already peaked — their current performance is the limit, and they cannot get better or worse. This is incredibly limiting and does not encourage proactivity.

You can promote a growth mindset in your workplace by encouraging people to take on challenging projects, giving them opportunities to learn new skills, and providing regular feedback that emphasizes their progress.

To help them acquire new skills, you can create a learning culture in your workplace. This can be done by setting up a library of resources (books, articles, online courses, etc.), holding regular lunch-and-learn sessions, and encouraging employees to share what they’ve learned with others.

Leverage employee’s abilities against their work to make sure they are taking on fulfilling projects, projects that elevate their productivity and allow them to grow without overworking them.

a natural landscape

Encourage risk-taking

Employees need to feel comfortable taking risks in their work, but these need to be the kind of risks that are both beneficial to the company and manageable if they fail.

In order to accommodate your budding risk-takers, it’s essential that you define what kind of risks are acceptable, put systems in place to help employees assess risks, and encourage a culture of learning from mistakes.

Risks are a necessary part of business. Without calculated risks, businesses would never grow or innovate. On the other hand, too much risk can lead to financial ruin. The key is to find a balance that works for your company culture. So you’ll need to first make it easy for employees to identify opportunities for taking risks.

This means being explicit about the kinds of risks you’re looking for employees to take. Do you want them to be more innovative in their thinking? To take on more challenging tasks? To speak up more often with new ideas?

Once you’ve defined the kind of risks you want employees to take, make it clear that you’re open to hearing about these risks and that you’ll support employees who do take them.

Remember that a system that helps employees assess risks should include examples of both manageable and unmanageable risks.

  • Manageable risks are those that can be controlled and have a known outcome.
  • Unmanageable risks are those that are out of your control and have an unknown outcome.

Also keep in mind that encouragement comes with acknowledgement. Make sure you’re noticing and rewarding employees with bonuses or promotions when they do take risks, even if those risks don’t always pay off. This will send the message that you value risk-taking and that it’s okay to fail sometimes.

employees being proactive in the planning stage of a project

Support collaboration

It’s good to keep in mind that companies who encourage collaboration between their employees are five times more likely to perform better.

When people work together, they share more than just their time with each other. They share ideas, give and receive feedback, and learn from each other’s mistakes. This type of collaborative environment creates a more proactive workforce because it allows for employees to constantly learn and grow.

In order to create a good, collaborative environment, you need to start by encouraging employees to share their ideas. This can be done through team meetings, one-on-one discussions, or even just an open door policy.

You should also make sure that there is room for debate and discussion. Collaboration doesn’t mean that everyone always agrees with each other. It’s important to allow for different opinions so that the best ideas can rise to the top.

Collaboration between departments is also worth pursuing. If employees feel like they are working together towards a common goal, they will be more likely to take ownership of their work.

This can be as simple as setting up regular meetings between different departments or cross-training employees so that they understand how their work fits into the bigger picture.

For example, the marketing department may see different trends compared to the finance department, but in a collaborative meeting these two groups may very well provide the solutions to each other’s concerns.

Likewise, having the upper management participate in employee meetings or talks about new ideas can ensure that the employees feel their voices are being heard. Promote a healthy debate where different points of view can be aired and explored.

If you’re an international company, perhaps collaboration isn’t always feasible for the typical, in-person, 9-to-5 work model. As such, you may also want to support atypical work schedules to better facilitate collaboration across teams and departments.

For remote work, time management software like are easy and effective ways for employees and managers to manage and convey their schedules to each other, no matter what those schedules may be.

an open door

Foster transparency

Transparency is a key ingredient in proactive teams. Why? Because when your team is in the loop about the things that matter, they’ll naturally be more inclined to give your company their all. Inter-department communication, as well as communication across various levels of a company, allows for better internal transparency.

Company transparency is a key factor in employee proactivity, because when employees feel like they have a good understanding of what’s going on in the company, they’re more likely to be proactive. They know what the company’s goals are and can see how their role fits into that bigger picture.

This transparency starts with you, as the leader. You need to be clear about the company’s goals and objectives and share this information with your team. You should also encourage transparency amongst employees by creating an environment where it’s safe to speak up, give feedback, and ask questions, as these are essential to internal collaboration as well.

Encourage open communication

At its heart, driving proactivity means communicating your desire for more proactive employees. It means being open with them about it, either completely or to a degree that they can sufficiently understand.

Every employee knows that growth and revenue go hand in hand, but if they aren’t aware of their own part in that bigger picture, then they are unlikely to be proactive towards the company goals that create it. This is because they view their own goals as different.

Thus it becomes essential that you as a company leader relate, openly and honestly, why you value proactivity and how it contributes to your employees’ own work lives and the life of the company.

But open communication is also not just one way. It requires that you listen to employees as well. If they feel like they have no input or that their suggestions are constantly being shot down, it will stifle proactivity and employee satisfaction. Employees need to feel that their voices are being heard in order to be more invested in the company and its success.

One way to encourage proactive employees is by establishing an open communication policy within your organization. This means encouraging employees to speak up when they have ideas, concerns, issues, or suggestions, and creating an environment where their input is valued and actively acknowledged.

This can be done in a number of ways, such as setting up regular one-on-one meetings between managers and employees, encouraging employees to speak up in team meetings, or even just making it clear that you are always open to hearing feedback.

Whichever method you choose, make sure that your team members know they are welcome to contribute — regardless of their status or role.

several lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling

The Takeaway

Proactivity isn’t a given in every organization; in fact, it takes a fair amount of work to foster such a work environment. This is where leaders can step in and make real change happen.

To create a more proactive workforce, you’ll need to promote growth-mindsets for your employees, encourage risk-taking, support collaboration, foster transparency, and openly communicate.

With these five strategies in place, you can better support a proactive workforce that takes initiative and drives your company towards success.