With your innovation goals in place and a strategy to execute on them ready to implement, it’s time to let everyone know.
As we’ve stressed previously when discussing innovation goals and strategy, your innovation program will be the most successful when you branch out to different departments company-wide. And even with a strong list of formalized, repeatable, innovation initiatives, your efforts will be greatly hindered without effective communication practices.
When it comes to internal communications surrounding your innovation program (especially if you’re targeting more employee engagement and open innovation), it’s better to over-share than to keep people in the dark. Some employees might be disinterested or complain about memos or meetings because they “aren’t involved” in your innovation program, and that’s fine. But when you’re trying to engage various departments for their ideas and feedback, its crucial to keep everyone updated on the comings and goings of your program.
While the most effective channels will vary from business to business, industry to industry, the goal of your communications are pretty straight-forward – keep everyone aware of what is happening and what the effects are. Here are the primary points of your innovation program you should be sharing with your employees.
What are you looking to do?
- Be transparent about what your goals are with a new project or initiative, but also with what’s going on with the organization as a whole as well. Focusing on projects is great and necessary, but a larger focus on company-wide activities can have a heavy influence on company culture. It helps to build trust and buy-in not to just this new initiative, but the overall vision and direction of the organization.
What are you looking for?
- It can be difficult for some employees to “care” about things if they aren’t involved or given the chance to be involved. Because of this, don’t forget to open up your projects to more than just R&D or the marketing department. Communicate opportunities for your employees to provide their feedback, ideas, or help to bring projects to life outside of their department.
What is happening behind the scenes?
- If your employees are sharing their ideas and feedback, its crucial to let them know what your process will look like for development and implementation. A lack of communication surrounding the progress of your projects (or progress at all) can cause your engagement and innovation initiatives to back-fire. Employees don’t think your taking their ideas seriously, or they won’t know how involved they can be.
What is moving forward?
- Apart from ensuring you’re communicating the details of your project management process, it’s also extremely important to keep your employees up to date on the ideas or projects that are moving forward. Not only does this encourage those who shared their ideas, but also helps to show those who are still hesitant that everyone is being heard and real progress is being made.
What is the current status?
- Similarly to letting everyone know what your process looks like, let them know where things are in that process too. What is still being reviewed? Are prototypes being built? Is new equipment being ordered? While we encourage over-sharing, be careful with mass communications at this point. When projects are stalled or killed for various reasons, it can be best to communicate directly to the person or people that helped launch the idea or project.
What were the effects?
- Like any initiative, people want to see results. When new projects are developed and implemented, let everyone know when they go live. Depending on the type of project, don’t forget to let them know what the results of the project. How many more units did you ship last quarter after the new improvement to your product lines? Still and again, be sure to use discretion. Don’t flaunt a reduction in costs by 10% if you laid off half your production line to save money!
Actionable Tips –
- Similar to your innovation program strategy, plan to involve more than just a select few departments in your communications. By engaging your entire workforce, you’ll help ensure everyone is on the same page with projects and changes, and will help your organization to be more collaborative, build trust, and encourage open innovation practices that can push your operations forward.
- Focus on two-way conversations. Speaking “at” your employees about what’s going on can do well to inform them of the happenings internally, but a focus on providing feedback and allowing conversations to flow freely can do wonders to promote collaboration, trust, and new ideas throughout your organization.
- Be persistent and predictable with your communications. This can be applied to scheduled updates on current projects, but also on a variable basis when new projects are launched. The goal of your communications plan is to make it routine, with employees looking forward to the next update and ready to get involved.
- Employ multiple communication channels. Our inboxes can get cluttered, we’ve got too many meetings, and memos can get ignored. Don’t worry about duplicating messages. Find the best channel for your employees, certain departments, or individuals and find the best way for you to communicate the goals, expectations, and progress of your innovation program