Idea 4- Innovation- A Culture of Employee Engagement

Idea 4 is creating a culture of ideas and empowering your team. We have put our team first, built relationships and clearly communicated what we want, now we can start getting feedback to improve our team. Empower your team to innovate and lead the way to success. My team has implemented over 100 ideas over the last 2 years alone.

The goal is not how many ideas you implement but rather to get your team to take ownership of the success of the team. You want your team to know that you want them to come up with ideas that improves the team. What they do really matters. Your team should be actively contributing to making the team and organization better.

This part was challenging for me and one that I still constantly nurture. I originally started with an idea box but after 2 months received no ideas. I went back to the group and asked how I could get them to give me ideas. They told me if I asked them one on one and followed through they would give me their ideas. They also wanted to be recognized for their ideas. They were tired of people taking credit for their ideas or nothing ever happening when they gave an idea. Note- this may be different on your team, you need to talk to them to find out what will work. Here are some ideas:

Step 1: Communicate to the team that you want their input and ideas. You want ideas to reduce waste, improve efficiency, customer service, or anything else that will improve the culture, efficiency or production of the group.

Step 2: Discuss with the team a process that will allow the team to submit and discuss ideas. Will there be an idea box? Will they e-mail you or someone else ideas? Will you discuss them in meetings? How will they get you these ideas and once you have them what will you do with them?

Step 3: Discuss with your group how you will recognize the team for providing ideas. Let them know your budget if you have one. Share ideas you have and solicit their thoughts. We decided that for every idea, no matter how bad, each employee gets a small candy. Once an employee comes up with 5 ideas that are implemented, that employee gets an hour off as a reward. Note- what motivates my team may be different from yours. You need to get their input for this step to work.

Step 4: Follow up is probably the most important part of this process. If you get an idea and do nothing with it, or fail to recognize it, you will not get ideas for long. People will share ideas and love to solve problems, but if they think it is a waste of time they will stop giving ideas and may get frustrated. Make sure you have a process to record ideas immediately and follow up on them and discuss them with the group.

Step 5: Make sure you are implementing as many good ideas as possible. If you get 100 ideas but don’t implement any, you will stop getting ideas. I raise every idea to the group, if the group likes the idea I try my best to implement it even if it causes me some pain elsewhere. On several occasions I have had to fight for the idea. I have also received and implemented ideas that impacted the entire organization. Getting these wins help build momentum and get the group excited about what is going on.

Step 6: Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate- I have an annual award for best idea and for most ideas. I also thank each person individually for each idea they submit, and we cheer for that person as a team every time we implement on of their ideas. Also, keep track of the ideas implemented and celebrate group milestones. Once we got to 100 ideas a group we had a party to celebrate.

Step 7: Always give credit: I always let my boss know where an idea came from. Never take credit for someone’s idea. Trust me, when you build a culture that implements 100s of ideas you will get credit. I loudly give credit to those who helped with a new idea. I tell my boss, my bosses boss and anyone who will listen. If someone gave me an idea 3 years ago I still talk about it and how that person helped improve the group.

Step 8: Keep the system going and get constant feedback to improve the process. I started this idea system to improve efficiency but really this has been the biggest driver of employee engagement. The group is empowered to create the group they want. They are all asked to be leaders and lead us to success. This is a lot of work, but it is worth it.  Good luck and please let me know how it goes. Next time we will talk about improving employee development.

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