In this series, we will present different guidelines on how to bring innovation theory to practice. This week, we take a look at Employee Engagement – the benefits of employee engagement and how to successfully create employee engagement in your organization.

An organization’s employees are vital components in a successful corporate innovation delivery plan.

Their buy-in is essential to not only ensure the successful execution of the innovation program as a whole but also towards recruiting them as long-term assets that go above and beyond the stated requirements of the innovation delivery plan. This helps ensure that they become exemplary corporate citizens capable of helping graft significant change onto the organizations that they work for.

When this is executed properly, the results can be formidable.

An example highlighted by Gartner involved a telecommunications company that was embarking upon a major changes in its workflow.

The project manager proactively undertook to share with the stakeholders the rationale behind the project and provided a method for them to “check in” via distributed teams in the field. The shared sense of ownership over the project’s outcome resulted in it being completed both on time and on budget – often regarded as the holy grail of project management success.

How can you emulate this success in your organization? Here are three stages to track progress of your employee engagement efforts; successfully passing them will ensure that innovation is accelerated (rather than stalled) by the employees that your organization counts on to succeed.

Stage 1: Let Employees Know What You Want to Happen

Letting employees know the targets of the employee engagement strategy means more than simply notifying them of the program’s formal existence and its targets.

Building employee engagement means appealing to the head, hearts, and hands of the employees working for your organization by engaging their mental faculties, emotions, and physical actions in the project at hand.

Setting realistic expectations is also a significant determinant of an organization’s ability to successfully communicate the objectives of an innovation delivery strategy to employees.

To do this, organizations should strive to set realistic performance expectations with each employee. It is particularly worthwhile to encourage this dialoge after important milestones such as performance reviews.

It has been discovered that taking pride in one’s work is a significant motivator for many employees.

One of the quickest ways to enable employees to attain this is by setting high standards for the expectations that they need to meet to be successful in their work. Industry surveys have indicated that , surprisingly, on average half of employees say that the standards that their employers hold them too are low.

In the context of innovation management, where innovation leaders are attempting to drive dynamic and disruptive changes throughout an organization, a systemic culture of lackluster performance is counterproductive to the kind of atmosphere that should exist in an innovative and fast-moving company. Instead, organizations should set high standards both for themselves and for their employees and ensure that those employees are both motivated and empowered to meet and exceed them.


Stage 2: Listen to employees’ suggestions

Employees should feel a strong sense of connection to the organization to derive maximum satisfaction out of their individual roles that goes beyond a typical worker-employer relationship.

In the context of larger companies (which are often those most likely to have the resources to devote to implementing a dedicated innovation management program) it is easy for individuals to see their role in the delivery of the program as being akin to a proverbial cog in a wheel.

Empowering individual employees to understand the importance of their role to the overall business mission has been found to be the most effective means of motivating them in an analysis that spanned over 300 different methods.

In conversations with employees, discussions should be framed in collective, positive language to underscore the shared nature of the objectives of the employee’s role and that of the organization. Employees should also be helped to develop an understanding of who the organization is, why it exists, and how they, as individuals, help it to succeed through fulfilling their jobs to the best of their abilities.

Besides being an effective motivating strategy, the sense of responsibility that this creates has an additional tangible benefit.

Once employees develop an understanding of, and a belief in, their role as integral parts of the broader organization, they will feel more comfortable in communicating suggestions to management that can have a positive impact on how the company operates. Simple means of further facilitating a culture in which employee feedback is valued include providing an employee suggestion box (whether in physical, online format, or both) for employees to communicate ideas for consideration by management. This will enable the creation of an ‘enabling environment’ in which employees are tapped into as valuable sources of idea generation that can lead to the implementation of practices that can have benefits for entire groups of workers.

Acknowledging user participation and using a rewards system, such as the points system depicted here, can greatly increase employee engagement

Stage 3: Learn lessons

Failing to listen to the people impacted by change can deal a fatal blow to the success of the practices that the innovation management effort is intended to disrupt.

Organizations, instead, should seek to implement an iterative process of communication with employees that are affected by the changes that they are seeking to actualize.

After obtaining their feedback and determining its value, employees should be continually consulted on the effectiveness of the changes made. Then, further conversations can be held to determine whether the suggested changes have met the expectations of those that recommended them or whether corrective action is needed to refine and mature those processes.

This can be summarized as a share, listen, adapt model of employee consultation. Proposed changes are disclosed to an organization’s employees; management listens to feedback from employees; and adaptations are made to refine those processes.

Done well, a successful employee engagement strategy can be critical to attaining superior performance from an organization’s employees.

To best facilitate the adoption of this SOP in your company, the use of an idea and innovation management platform such as Qmarkets’ Q-max is ideal. Qmarkets’ innovation management software can help organizations formalize a means of tracking the crucial elements of such a strategy.