Implementing and Maintaining an Employee Innovation Program

 James Broth
  Feb 28, 2018

In a business, your employees are often your greatest source for innovative new ideas. They are the “soldiers on the ground”, the ones interacting directly with your customers, handling the products, fulfilling on orders, and overall, going through the daily processes that keep your business alive. This gives them the unique perspective and a deeper understanding of the systems on the ground, their pluses and minuses, and gives them the ability to be able to pinpoint small issues within the business that you might overlook.

Perhaps there is a communication barrier in one department that needs addressing. Maybe a customer service rep has noticed a recurring issue that clients report. Perhaps a department manager has noticed a bottleneck in the fulfillment process. If you provide employees with a path to take control of and address these issues, you can greatly improve your business.

But how do you get started? And how do you maintain such a program? Here is a quick guide.

Help Employees Set Goals

The first step is to have each department manager or team leader (depending on how your business’s chain of command is set up) sit down with every team member and decide on one or two goals that they want to fulfill in that quarter. These goals will become a special project for each employee, and they can even choose to team up on their goals if they need an the extra pair of hands to make it happen. Encourage employees to choose goals and projects that will improve the work experience in their department, or across the business.

The check-printing mogul Deluxe utilizes a similar program for their employees, which they call “My2”. Each employee chooses two goals or projects per quarter and works toward it throughout the quarter. The employees then report back to their team leaders or managers on their progress at the end of the quarter, and decide whether the project needs to continue or if they need a new one.

Provide Time to Make It Happen

Employees can’t provide innovation for your business if they have to keep their nose to the grindstone every minute they are at the work. If you want to see the true changes in your business, then you need to allow employees time to work on those projects and goals mentioned above. Even if this is only a couple of hours a week, this time will enable your employees to pursue the innovations they envisioned and bring them to life to help your company grow and thrive.

Tech giant Google—arguably one of the most innovative companies in the world—follows this model by allowing every employee to spend 20% of their time on projects of their own choosing. These kinds of projects have yielded incredible products and innovations for the company, helping to fuel their incredible a growth.

Organize Ideas and Track Progress

Most people know that you’re more likely to reach your goals when you write them down. A similar idea applies for employee innovation programs. Employees’ ideas and progress should be recorded and tracked for many reasons. For one thing, it makes it easier for the employees to keep track of what they need to do next on their projects, and it makes collaboration on projects more effective. But it also keeps employees accountable, as it enables team managers and other members of the management team to monitor progress on certain projects.

Additionally, if you utilize the right kind of idea management software, you can actually add the incentives to your employees’ projects. With gamification techniques and scoreboards that show how every employee is performing on their innovations, such technology can encourage employees in their projects and actually make it an enjoyable, somewhat competitive experience.

If you continually follow through with these three elements, your employee innovation program will help you to collect the ideas and implement improvements that will greatly benefit your company.

Implementing and Maintaining an Employee Innovation Program

James Broth

James Broth is a business writer, mentor, and personal finance advisor. He has been consulting for SMB owners and entrepreneurs for the past seven years.

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