Is employee engagement a Shakespearean Much Ado About Nothing? Not really.

It is, however, a panacea for business issues like retention, growth, and competitive advantage. With over 70% of employees disengaged or under-engaged, and soaring costs of that disengagement reaching over $500 billion each year, it’s in every company’s best interest to identify engagement issues and snuff them out. Innovation management initiatives can play a mammoth role in reversing both the cause and effects of faltering interest and involvement.

Key Drivers and Employee Expectations

Over the past decade, and particularly in the past three years, employers and employees have faced human capital challenges and an uncertain economy. But what will turn that around? What really drives engagement? Aon Hewitt, who recently published key engagement drivers, found that the top 3 engagement stimulants are career opportunities, brand alignment, and recognition.

Employees are seeking “a sense of accomplishment and knowing that they have a chance to create something extraordinary.” Creating a culture of participation is imperative, and one proven way to do so is through innovation management platforms. They not only utilize internal crowdsourcing to support ideation and innovation, but employ voting metrics and gamification of processes to augment collaboration and involvement.

Many large companies are finding that innovation management allows them to address these issues through a central initiative. For example, AT&T adopted SpigitEngage to power their AT&T TIP (The Innovation Pipeline) program, which currently has over 130,000 active participants in 52 countries, and over 25,000 innovation ideas submitted. The ‘Foundry’ and TIP by AT&T have had phenomenal results, with over $38 million invested by AT&T in viable innovation projects.

Stakeholders, Context, and Relevance

Research shows that organizations with high levels of engagement (65% or greater) continue to outperform the total stock market index, and post total shareholder returns that are 22% higher than average. On the other hand, companies with low engagement (45% or less) have total shareholder returns of about 28% lower than the average.

In boardrooms across North America, executives extoll the need to be innovative in today’s fluctuating marketplace. Companies that want to drive growth through innovation should create an environment that welcomes new ideas, as well as make engaging employees a key component of their overall business strategy. Innovation is a basic human skill — it’s intrinsic, business contextual, and relevant; a core catalyst for engagement. Employee recognition, employee voice, and crowd input at scale is what innovation management platforms provide.

Whether it’s drawing the best ideas from 263,000 people at Citi, or watching 130,000 employees collaborate and ideate at AT&T, innovation management platforms are engaging employees while delivering innovation that’s scalable, repeatable, and vital for sustainable competitive advantage.