In a world where ideas and innovation go hand in hand for any business looking to scale, it is crucial that companies of all sizes recognise that valuable new ways of thinking can come from anyone within a team, not just those at the highest level. Engaging effectively with employee ideas could be the catalyst for business growth.
Whether it be an office assistant or director, any employee could be sitting on a golden idea which has the potential to make an impact, no matter how big or small.
With research showing that businesses with engaged employees can outperform those without by 202 per cent, companies now should have the right tools in place to help keep employees motivated and encouraged to voice ideas, which could prove essential for a business.
Yet, despite the clear incentive for businesses to drive engagement with employees ideas, many people still feel unable to share their thoughts and be heard by someone who could take action, which can often leave them feeling undervalued in their role.
Will Read, Founder and CEO of employee engagement software company Sideways 6, says this issue is particularly true of large companies today. ‘Such companies may find engaging their frontline employees and nurturing a sense of identity both important and challenging in equal measure.
‘However, there are now a number of ways that leaders can unlock ideas from across their workforce, understand them better and use them to drive their business forward.’
Drive efficiency with better management
Due to lack of engagement and poor idea management processes, many of the traditional methods of collecting and managing employee ideas are largely inefficient in today’s digital world, Read argues. ‘However, by implementing tools which help leaders to better manage these insights, businesses can ensure that the best ones are discovered and put into action faster.’
Technologies within the idea management space are now offering decisionmakers an easy and scalable way to access, understand and act on employee ideas quickly and effectively. With this, leaders can engage staff and relish new opportunities to increase efficiency, whether this be generating new revenue streams, reducing costs through improved productivity or even delivering great customer service.
Find innovative ideas faster
It goes without saying that for any business, the people who are best placed to come up with new ways to improve are the ones who know it inside and out – its employees. Working closely with customers on a daily basis gives them the insight needed to spot any problems or pain points felt by the people investing in the company’s service. So what better way drive innovation than with the ideas of those who can use these experiences to find new opportunities for business success.
‘Encouraging employee conversations can help those managing them to find the best ideas from within the crowd and put them into action faster,’ Read says. ‘Whether this is sharing those ideas with the most relevant in-house experts or simply suggesting them to other senior team members, taking one great idea forward might just have the potential to kickstart innovation across an entire business.’
Encourage conversation and collaboration
As a business grows, its workforce can become widely dispersed or segmented by departments. This inevitably makes it harder for leaders to engage their employees in a business-wide discussion and enable people to share ideas with the whole company.
However, encouraging staff to socialise ideas with like-minded people can be essential for driving collaboration across all areas of a business. To achieve this, decision-makers should make sure they are starting these conversations in places their employees already are. This is where tapping into existing communities can be extremely effective.
Platforms such as enterprise social networks provide an easily-accessible channel for employees, working in any location or time zone, to spark the ideas sharing process, by giving them the platform to voice their own thoughts and react to those of others. This is a surefire way to increase peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and keep senior team members well in tune with the thoughts of their workforce.
Improve company culture
A simple engagement with an employee can work wonders for a company’s staff culture. No matter how big or small the interaction – a quick thank you or praise of a good idea – listening and feeding back on an idea can work to give employees the recognition they need to stay motivated and committed to helping the business on its journey.
Enthusiastic and valued employees will often invest extra time, effort and initiative which can increase productivity and create a better sense of team morale. Giving employees the voice to communicate ideas with passion and energy can not only make way for a better company culture, but will also reflect on the overall success of the businesses.
Connect employees and decision-makers
Due to various factors, such as travel and lack of time, it can be very difficult for the decisionmakers leading large businesses to maintain a personal connection with their frontline employees. However, new technologies are now making it easy for business leaders to listen to employees and better understand their thoughts on the business.
‘By making the idea sharing experience both quick and accessible for everyone in the business, technology is able help keep senior team members in touch with the daily endeavours and challenges in all corners of the business and ensure they are more visible to their employees on the ground,’ Read says.
Driving employee engagement can be difficult, especially for large businesses with disparate workforces. However, with the right tools in place and a willingness to give staff the encouragement they need to share their ideas with others, decision-makers can unlock the true power of their employees and use their ideas to help build a better business.
In summary: Four ways to harness the ideas of employees
- Use technology to liaise with your staff better
- Engage your staff to encourage ideas generation
- Use enterprise social networks to boost the ideas-sharing process
- Listen to employees and actively feed back on ideas