Getting ideas from your employees isn’t even half the battle.
I recently spoke with a consultant who, prior to venturing out on his own, previously worked inside two internet giants over the past couple decades. During our discussion of his work and our idea management software, he touched on his experiences with idea collection and innovation programs.
His main piece of feedback was that at those organizations, management made an effort to solicit ideas and they were shared. But after that, they “went into a black hole” never to be seen or heard from again.
Getting ideas from your employees is easy. But even if you get hundreds of ideas, then what? No one wants to be ignored, but you can’t act on everything.
The following five steps all present opportunities to update or involve your employees in the progress of their ideas.
Getting support from co-workers is great, but hearing from management is even better. Whether an idea is shared in a suggestion box, brainstorming meeting, idea board, or through idea management software, take some time to leave feedback (both positive and constructive) and give your employees the chance to collaborate and leave feedback for each other too.
Examining the feasibility or potential of an idea is a must, no matter its scope. Researching market trends, building case-studies, and checking out competitors helps to validate the likelihood of development. This can be done by the employee too, and presents a great opportunity for them to play a larger role in getting their idea off the ground.
If an idea looks like it has potential, let the employee know, and see to what extent they want to be involved. Things like validation through customer interviews, landing pages, or surveys are essential – and actions that can also be done by the employee. They just need your support, some resources, and time to get deeper perspectives on the potential of their idea.
Nothing says “Black Hole” like sharing a great idea and it never coming to life. Drawing up a mock-up or creating an MVP/prototype are crucial, tactical steps for turning an idea into a real-life improvement or product. While this usually constitutes a hand-off to R&D or engineering, with a product innovation framework and proper planning, it is yet another opportunity for employees to play a role in bringing their thoughts to life.
While not every idea from your employees is worthy of action or implementation, failure to bring any ideas to life will kill the motivation of your employees to share their feedback. For those being implemented, communicating your plans and, again, involving employees in a managerial or developmental role during the implementation process proves you’re listening and serious about employee-driven innovation.
Avoid employee ideas entering a “black hole” by focusing on communication and opportunities for those employees to participate in getting their ideas off the ground.
For high potential ideas, have a plan in place to follow the steps above. For ideas that still need a little work, don’t avoid them. Provide feedback and encouragement to your employees for future ideas.
Overall, communication (and action when appropriate) is crucial to keeping your employees engaged, learning, and submitting ideas to improve your organization.