Picture your company’s last strategy or product development meeting. Who was sitting at the table? Probably the usual team of senior leaders who often gather to share thinking with each other.
By only encouraging idea generation among top leaders, you may be missing an opportunity to get critical input from your broader employee base. Oftentimes the team members who work most closely with products or customers will have useful insight on how the organization can innovate and improve to affect the bottom line.
So how do successful companies inspire key stakeholders and encourage employees to share their ideas?
- Build a culture of belief—The entire workforce needs to believe that anyone can submit an idea and be heard. If this is a new approach at your company, it may be more widely embraced if an executive announces the program. Managers can then reinforce the message that employee ideas will be heard and the good ones will be acted on. Don’t forget to show support by encouraging managers to meet with their own teams to boost participation.
- Create multiple touch points for sharing—Here are just a few ways to easily enable employees to share ideas: Employee surveys; informal lunches where employees can directly speak with leaders; an email address or physical Idea Box; online crowd sourcing tools that allow employees to easily vote for their colleagues’ best ideas; contests and internal idea campaigns.
- Know what will motivate employees—Employees aren’t always looking for a raise or other compensation for their ideas. Public recognition can be well received. Or offering a few extra vacation days is another way to reward employees whose ideas will be utilized.
- Show that you will follow through—You will get more input if employees know that you plan to implement the best ideas. By publicly recognizing employee contributions and widely communicating their achievement, you’ll signal to more employees the value in contributing their own thoughts.
The effort to create a simple employee idea-sharing program could pay off in big ways. Just ask 3M—the Post-It Note® was the brainchild of an employee!
Author: Ashlee Goodman