There are some employers who live by the mantra “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” They go through their day to day routines simply doing what works, and never venturing too far from the beaten path. This kind of mentality is good for maintaining, but does little for growth. For those employers who want to see that bottom line move up, see their products and processes improve, and see their company mature and grow, innovation is a necessary ingredient. It can be difficult as one person, one CEO, one board member, etc., to try and come up with all of the newest and brightest ideas to improve a company, so why not use one of your most valuable resources- your employees!
For employers with an eye on growth, encouraging innovation from your employees is a must. First off, employees can then feel like they are individually contributing to the greater vision of the company, and it gives them a greater sense of purpose. They will likely be more satisfied in their position and feel more loyalty to a company that they feel values their opinion, and who they’ve chosen to invest their opinions in. Also, as mentioned, it is every CEO’s goal to decipher what is best for his or her company, but it is the employees themselves who have a great sense of the pulse of the organization. They are an often untapped resource, brimming with ideas and individual knowledge that can render great success for your organization. At our company, Medix made innovation one of its quarterly initiatives, and encouraged employees to submit opinions and innovative solutions to an “idea board” for our leadership team to assess and start applying to our processes. Our employees have voices, and we like to hear them. We encourage you to listen to your employees’ innovative voices too!
So how can an employer encourage innovation from their team? Below is an Inc.com article that gives tips on this topic. Remember, your employees see how the company is run day in and day out, and have very valuable insight to contribute! Happy innovating!
Encouraging Employee Innovation: Building “Intrapreneurs”
Creating a culture of success from within
Dave Lindenstruth still had a day job in 2006 when he launched the start-up that today operates four HuHot Mongolian Grill locations in Wisconsin. As president and CEO of Appetize, he tells employees what he wants the business to accomplish rather than telling each one what to do. The result, he says, is that everyone in the company, from dishwashers to managers and executives, knows how to play a role in the growth of the business.
Employees’ ideas have value only if they align with the company’s mission, says Amy Pietsch, director of the Fox Valley Technical College Venture Center in Oshkosh, who has worked with Lindenstruth. And for that to happen, business owners must communicate their goals to the staff.
Pietsch provides counseling to many small business owners who feel unable to let anything go “because no one else will do it right.’ She finds that often, business owners have perfect clarity about their expectations, but only in their own minds—they’ve failed to provide employees with a tangible sense of what is expected of them. “We have this very romanticized vision of entrepreneurship. It’s about this lone person who’s out there defying the odds,’ she says. “And that in reality is a myth. Successful small business owners and entrepreneurs know they need to build a team.’
That team needs to be supported by a corporate culture that encourages employees to share ideas and teaches them how to offer suggestions. For example, Pietsch says, staffers have to understand that they need to make the business case for their proposals and present the owner not just with the idea itself, but also the research to support its value. Once they’ve done that, the owner is obliged to listen—one of the hallmarks of a good leader.
It’s also important to cultivate a culture that doesn’t exclude anyone from intrapreneurial opportunity. “Make sure everyone in your operation knows why they’re there and how their talents can contribute to reaching the company’s goals,’ Pietsch says.
Employee recognition and reward programs can play an important role in keeping the ideas coming. Lindenstruth is in the process of rolling out an incentive program for which all employees are eligible. The company has let each person know the criteria being measured and has explained that everyone can earn bonuses for improved performance.
Pietsch notes that recognition can be as important as monetary rewards and that it’s important to give employees credit for efforts as well as success. She adds that initiatives that don’t work out as hoped can show the way to a future success. “You want them to build on that knowledge and use that when they come up with their next idea, so you don’t want to discourage them.’
The same is true of ideas the company decides not to implement, Lindenstruth adds. “Even if you don’t take them up on it, give them feedback. It reinforces that culture and shows that you’re listening to them.”