Is your organization looking to innovate? Whether it's new products that can drive new revenue, new processes that can save time and resources, or new approaches to solving old problems, any business can benefit from innovation. Often, the best ideas come from employees at all levels throughout the organization. Your employees are a powerful resource for fresh, groundbreaking ideas.
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However, you’re only likely to benefit from your team's potential if you create a culture in which new ideas are encouraged and welcomed. How can you get there? Take a look at some of our favorite tips.
Creativity and Growth Begin With Trust
Sharing new ideas requires vulnerability, so creating a culture of trust must be a priority for companies that wish to encourage new ideas. This involves building trust between employees and the organization as a whole and its leaders, as well as trust in supervisors and team members.
Set an example of transparency, including providing tools and resources to simplify remote collaboration.
Ensure the organization’s policies and decision-making processes are truly equitable.
Encourage managers to build strong relationships with employees through regular dialogue and feedback.
Make sure managers encourage creativity from all employees, regardless of role or time on the job. The best idea could come from a brand new employee, someone about to retire, or anyone else!
Focus on building strong, cohesive teams characterized by respectful communication and supportive behavior.
Allocate sufficient time and resources to team bonding activities focused on building strong teams characterized by trust.
From early in the onboarding process, emphasize to new hires that ideas and innovation are not only valued, but also expected.
Set rules of engagement for brainstorming and idea sharing to encourage a free flow of information. These sessions shouldn’t involve criticizing, championing, or debating the merits of ideas, but rather to unleash creativity.
The best idea could come from a brand new employee, someone about to retire, or anyone else!
Make it Easy to Share New Ideas
It’s important to make it really easy for employees to share new ideas, without having to deal with barriers or proverbial red tape. If it’s difficult or complicated for employees to do something that is above and beyond their job, they’re certainly not likely to do so.
Establish a few simple ways for employees to formally contribute ideas, such as adding a web form to the intranet or a dedicated email address for idea submissions.
Set up an organization-wide #ideas channel on Slack, or any other tech-based collaboration tool that your organization uses.
Consider implementing the equivalent of a school science fair for employees, except focus it on developing, presenting, and awarding prizes for innovative business ideas.
Host team and cross-functional brainstorming sessions in which employees are encouraged to share their ideas.
Develop an incentive program for those who contribute new ideas that are implemented that have impact (such as sharing cost-savings or revenue impact).
Eliminate barriers to idea submission, such as doing away with policies that require suggestions to go through one’s direct supervisor, so that employees can take ideas to the departments or functions most likely to benefit from them.
Encourage — or even require — employees to use a set percentage of their work time focused specifically on developing and figuring out how to implement innovative solutions.
It’s important to make it really easy for employees to share new ideas, without having to deal with barriers or proverbial red tape.
Develop Employee Creativity and Growth
Big ideas don't always pop out of thin air. Creativity can be thought of as a muscle that needs to be exercised, especially if you want individuals to think beyond the scope of their own role. Expand your company’s employee development efforts to include initiatives focused on developing creativity and outside-the-box thinking.
Expand your learning and development program to include training focused on creativity and entrepreneurial thinking.
Encourage employees to share their perspectives and develop an understanding of others’ perspectives by promoting employee resource groups (ERGs).
Support employee involvement with professional organizations, including participating as committee or board meetings, as well as presenting at events.
Train managers to adopt a coaching-focused style so they can truly motivate employees to engage in creative problem solving.
Help employees grow by providing easy, convenient access to on-demand training that can help them develop new skills.
Implement a career management approach that involves identifying employee strengths and goals, so they can be placed on project teams or in roles where they can truly excel.
Establish an innovation library from which employees can check out books focused on topics related creativity, idea generation, and related topics.
Creativity can be thought of as a muscle that needs to be exercised, especially if you want individuals to think beyond the scope of their own role.
Follow Up and Move Forward
Getting employees to share new ideas is great, but what happens next? If employees share suggestions and never hear back, they’ll probably assume their contributions aren’t valued. If that happens, they might not bother sharing their next.
Make it part of someone’s job to individually follow up with employees who contribute ideas within a reasonable time after suggestions are made.
Establish mechanisms for recognizing employees who contribute suggestions, whether or not their ideas are implemented, such as personalized thank you notes or swag.
Consider adding “idea sharing” to performance evaluations, so that employees are rated in part based on the quantity and or quality of innovative ideas they contribute.
List the names of employees who contributed new ideas over the last month or quarter in the employee newsletter or mention in a leadership-led staff meeting.
Track and share key performance indicators based on idea sharing, such as how many employees or teams submit ideas, what percentage are implemented, and bottom-line impact.
To encourage idea sharing overall, consider setting up a display or intranet graphic that is the equivalent of a fundraising thermometer, except use it to track submitted ideas.
Encouraging Idea-sharing Leads to Innovation
If your company is serious about innovating, it’s important to come up with a strategy to tap into the wealth of potential innovation and creativity that lies within your employees. Let them know that their ideas are valued, make it easy for them to contribute, and share the results. If you do, chances are you’ll find out very quickly just why employees are the most valuable resource that any organization has!
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.