How to increase engagement in enterprise innovation and develop a sustainable program
HYPE Innovation is producing a series of five articles to help innovation practitioners and those new to collaborative enterprise innovation, understand how to build a successful and sustainable program. This article shares key activities you can undertake in order to boost engagement with your program.
Written by Colin Nelson, Director of Strategic Consulting, HYPE.
Each article in this series addresses a different theme, focuses on clear actions any company can take, and highlight pitfalls to avoid.
The first article in this series explained how software can help engage your enterprise in innovation. As mentioned this article will share key activities you can undertake in order to boost engagement with your program.
How can engagement be measured?
At HYPE we’re regularly asked what to expect in terms of participation, numbers of ideas shared and what benchmarks to set when engaging large groups online on innovation initiatives. Every organization is different, has a different culture, structure and set of objectives. These nuances will affect expectations even before you’ve addressed the focus of the innovation program.
What’s more helpful is to judge key indicators over time and monitor how five categories of employee engagement change. The five categories are:
Each organization will measure the number of employees in each category differently depending on the pace of the program, the level of marketing and communications that’s been undertaken and the historical factors. Considering standard participation metrics in addition to the levels in each group help you to monitor engagement levels and adjust your approach accordingly. For example, if a large portion of employees are ‘unaware’ of the enterprise program, one of your main tasks will be to market the approach and raise awareness.
Key blockers to engagement growth:
1) Sponsorship without commitment – Bad innovation sponsors can ‘spoil the well’ for the rest of the organization. Lack of feedback, action on next steps, or engagement in the process as a whole is sure to disengage some and create apathy in others.
2) Lack of middle management support – The day job often gets in the way of participation, this is normal, but perhaps some middle managers are so focused on the day job, their teams don’t feel supported in taking some time out to help others.
3) Lack of trust in colleagues – If invitees witness the ideas of some being treated less than respectively, perhaps dismissed without any constructive comment, this can cause others to fear putting their idea forward.
4) Lack of transparency and recognition – Nothing slows participation down faster than a feeling your ideas have disappeared down a black hole; everyone likes to see how their ideas are progressing. Ensuring the whole process is transparent enables peer recognition; employees become witnesses to the success of innovation activities.
5) Lack of variety in the innovation topics – Some programs are focused clearly on one area of the business, often that’s product or service innovation. If all you ask for is one type of innovation, people can simply run out of ideas for the same set of questions and challenges.
It may be tempting to blame one area for stagnant or falling levels of engagement, but consider all five areas to ensure the program is as strong as possible in each.
Key activities to build engagement:
1) Choose sponsors carefully – Good sponsors take action once they have great ideas they can put into practice. They participate in idea campaigns and choose good review teams. They’re usually focused individuals, aware of exactly what they want and what they don’t want. Look for those that have a reputation for ‘getting things done’ and those in senior positions that command the respect of others.
2) Check for pockets of non-participation – Every company has groups that participate more than others, consider those that seem out of step with the rest and find out what local factors affect that group. Perhaps their VP doesn’t believe in it, or perhapsthey don’t feel connected to the current range of innovation initiatives. Consider what types of innovation campaign could engage those groups and their local management; where possible align tactical needs of local middle management.
3) Ensure participants are adhering to constructive behaviors – Active moderation helps set expectations for all on what behaviors you’d like to see and which are detrimental to the process. Constructive feedback should always be welcomed, however dismissing an idea completely doesn’t help the submitter or others to improve an idea that may not make an initial assessment.
4) High-quality feedback – All submitted ideas, insights and innovations deserve feedback. If you have too many ideas to offer individual feedback, consider a range of standard responses to fit common reasons to reject a contribution. For example: ‘Your idea was good, but we only had budget to implement a few, so I’m going to save the rest and consider them again in 6 months.’
5) Innovate everything – Innovate every area of your business.Remember that many things have value to your company, including process improvement, cost reduction and sharing best practices in addition to more traditional product and service innovation. Campaigns on these topics will pull in a much wider group of potential innovators and keep things fresh and different.
Maintaining and building high-quality engagement over time should be the focus of all innovation managers as they strive to develop sustainable enterprise programs. Use the data and what you know about your organization to understand what level of engagement exists over time and how many employees you have in each of the engagement categories.
Consider how to mitigate all the reasons why employees may not engage on a regular basis; remember that you’re competing for employees time, so it’s crucial to show business value and success on a regular basis.
In the next article, HYPE will consider ‘collaboration’ in more detail. We’ll discuss how to find diverse opinions and develop better ideas earlier on in your innovation process.
By Colin Nelson
About the author
Colin Nelson is Director of Strategic Consulting at HYPE Innovation, a global leader in idea and innovation management software and solutions for over 11 years. Using the power of the workforce, third parties and customers, Colin helps clients engage disparate groups to support existing or newly established programs on Innovation, Cost Reduction, Business Transformation and Business Improvement.
He works as a subject matter expert and thought leader on how people engage to share ideas and collaborate with others, online and at scale with global innovation leaders such as Continental, Airbus, General Mills, Hershey’s, Peugeot, SCA, WD-40 Company, and many others, focusing specifically on processes and innovation behaviors.
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