Empowering your Employees to not just Think, but Act on their Ideas

If leadership is serious about empowering their employees, include these resources in the budget so they’re ready and available for implementation.
Trae Tessmann|
October 10, 2018
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You don’t have to be Google to instill an “intrapreneurial” mindset in your employees.

 

But just encouraging intrapreneurship (or letting your employees think and act like entrepreneurs to solve issues and seize opportunities inside your organization) isn’t the entire solution. Here we outline the steps and infrastructure that must be present to create a culture of innovation where employees can feel empowered and are able to take action on their ideas.

 

When actively enabled, new ideas aren’t just present but allowed to grow. From improvements to your product line, a new service or product addition, or a new business segment altogether, employees can take control of their ideas, and work to improve both the organization and their careers at the same time.

 

To start, any efforts to instill a “culture of innovation” or an environment where new ideas can flourish starts with buy-in from leadership. They need to be vocal in their intentions to empower employees. Make it clear that new ideas are encouraged, risks can be taken, and support is available for innovation. Without public buy-in for employee-driven innovation, there will always be a sense of apprehension to make new observations, share a new idea, or ask for a meeting to discuss a new project among employees.

 

Suggestions from Ideawake –

  • Send a company-wide email or memo, calling for new ideas and offering support
  • Meet with Department Heads, employees in-person to explain initiatives
  • Launch an Idea Management System to effectively collect, review, and track new ideas

 

 

Separate from personal leadership and cultural norms, an often over-looked aspect of employee-powered innovation is the availability of concrete guidance for employees to follow. Encouragement can only go so far, so there should be a repeatable process or series of steps for employees to follow to take initial action on their ideas. Examples of steps include doing marketing research, customer interviews, financial projections, creating presentations, and more. Formalize this process, and communicate its intentions to your employees.

 

Suggestions from Ideawake –

  • Reference the “Lean Startup” Methodology to build your idea escalation plan
  • Put together a list of tasks for an Employee to complete for their Idea
  • Skip the work on your end, and launch the Ideabox (ask us about it!)

 

 

Once employees know they have support from the organization and have a plan for what’s next, they need time to work. While a huge roadblock to employee-driven initiatives is taking employees away from their core responsibilities, providing this additional time comes with its benefits. Work is done under your roof, questions can be answered in real-time, resources are available for your employees, and confidence soars. You also don’t need to go all-in from the start. Time allotments can be small during an idea’s infancy, and can also be given only to ideas that appear to have the potential to move forward.

 

Suggestions from Ideawake –

  • Schedule times for groups to collaborate on new problems, opportunities, and ideas
  • Schedule times for individuals to work on the ideas that have the potential to move forward
  • Create a check-in system to hold innovators accountable for the additional work they’re doing

 

 

Once ideas start moving forward, provide personal support to your innovators. Whether through mentorships, one-on-one meetings, or simple email check-ins, don’t let your employees feel like they’re alone. Personal support will also help to keep ideas moving forward, get questions answered quickly, and provide a level of supervision that compliments the steps we mentioned prior.

 

Suggestions from Ideawake –

  • Assign department mentors for your innovators to use for questions and guidance
  • Schedule times for mentor check-ins and meetings
  • Set a schedule for idea progress milestones and updates

 

 

As your innovation program, your innovators, and their ideas mature, there will be a need for new resources to bring these new concepts to life. Ranging from capital and equipment to team members and work spaces, don’t think of this as an additional cost, but rather an investment in your people, their ideas, and the future prospects for your organization. If leadership is serious about empowering their employees, include these resources in the budget so they’re ready and available for implementation.

 

Suggestions from Ideawake –

  • Determine the resources needed to reach your idea development goals
  • Allot capital and resources in your quarterly or annual budget
  • Create temporary or permanent locations for team work sessions and meetings

 

About Trae Tessmann

Co-founder of Ideawake

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