Companies have known for a long time that the key to innovation often lies within their employees. Employees are one of the best sources for ideas and innovation on process improvements. Creative employees seek new ways of doing their jobs and more efficient approaches to using company resources. They can bring fresh eyes to long standing problems and are generally more inclined to come up with preventive solutions to issues faced every day.
However, despite being full of ideas many employees find that they do not have the capability to express them within their company. Research conducted among business leaders suggests that they are aware of the number of ideas being generated by their employees, but they do not have a solution to process the information. This process, also called Idea Harvesting is an important tool for innovation within companies. So what can companies do to harvest innovative ideas from their employees?
Create a Place for Ideas
For ideas to be received, companies must provide a place for ideas to be submitted by all employees within the organisation. Previously ideas have been submitted in many ways, through suggestion boxes, by email, voicemail, at meetings or during conversations throughout the workday. This can quickly become messy and keeping track of different ideas can become difficult. There is also difficulty in this traditional method for deskless workers, who do not have access to a company email and may rarely be on site to use a suggestion box. Creating one central space for ideas to be submitted digitally, can overcome these difficulties and ensure a more organised approach. Allowing employee’s to submit their ideas for improvement through an app on their own mobile device makes it easier for them to input these ideas from wherever they are.
When implementing a system for employees to submit improvement ideas, companies may find that over time the volume of entries will decrease. This is usually due to a lack of feedback being given regarding the ideas. Having a digital solution for ideas harvesting that allows employees to submit their ideas through an app on their device can also allow them to track the progress of their ideas. Employees can have visibility of how far along the process of being approved and implemented their idea is. Employee engagement levels improve when they know that their submissions are being implemented. When they can see that they are directly involved in creating better policies and improving processes, productivity begins to increase.
Recognition can also play an important part in convincing employees to submit their improvement ideas for review. Recognition and kudos are a massive incentive for employees to contribute. Employee’s respond well to recognition of their ideas because it confirms the value of their work. When employees can see that their work is valued, their satisfaction and productivity rise, and they are motivated to maintain or even improve their good work. Research by Gallup shows that recognising employees is one of the key factors in influencing employee engagement and organisational performance.
There is no question that employees are an invaluable source for improvement ideas. To be truly innovative companies must take the rights steps to harvest these ideas. This allows for more opportunity to develop and change processes to be more efficient and possibly more cost effective. The main principles in harvesting employee ideas is to provide a central channel that is always open for submissions, give feedback and allow employees to track the progress of their improvement and offer recognition as an incentive to submit ideas. However, it is just as important for organisations to act on these ideas as it is for employees to submit them. When employees witness action being taken and improvements being implemented it creates an engaged workforce and a culture of continuous improvement.