Creating a culture of empowerment is an important building block to proactivity. Company culture is used so often nowadays that it may seem like just a motivational buzz word sometimes, but in the case of encouraging proactivity, it should not be disregarded. Managers need to frequently communicate that they support initiative and employees coming up with creative solutions to problems. Likewise when employees attempt new or inventive ways to solve problems, even when they fail, the failures should be dealt with diplomatically because no one is going to want to try new ways to solve problems if they see others being severely punished or worse for failures (absent nefarious intent).
Making it a challenge for employees to be more proactive is another part of encouraging such behavior that has been documented as delivering results in some companies that have tried it. The company should communicate clearly the problem(s) that are to be solved as part of the challenge and any other parameters related to the results that they company are looking for as part of the challenge. Coupling a challenge with a reward system for the top finisher or finishers also typically enhances the results of the challenge.
Empowering employees and preventing decision bottlenecks is one more important piece of the puzzle to help employees be more proactive. Employees who are empowered with the proper training, physical supplies, software, and manpower, all of which vary from situation to situation, can tackle problems themselves without having to reactively wait through some procurement or similar process. Although not all decisions are proper to be made at all levels of a company, reducing as much “red tape” as possible prevents decision bottlenecks that can prevent lower-level employees from being proactive.