A great idea can catapult an organization into financial superstardom. In fact, most successful organizations owe their accomplishments to a synchronization of great ideas that were executed upon. However, the provenance of winning ideas isn't solely the C-suite and each employee is in a great position to make suggestions that will help improve the bottom line.
In the past years organizations have increasingly found new ways to collect feedback from their employees, understanding that this not only helps boost engagement levels-which are worryingly low in the United States-but can be instrumental in capturing nuggets of information which can be leveraged to improve business results. As 1to1 Media highlights in this article, some companies are finding novel ways to collect employee feedback.
But collecting information is not enough. As the saying goes, there's no such thing as a free lunch, and if employees are taking the time to share insights, they expect something in return. And as many organizations have found out, it's not enough to pay employees their salaries. They want to be recognized and rewarded for their input, even if they're not involved in the final part of a project. As Lamont Exeter, executive director of learning innovation at TeleTech, stresses, managers need to recognize employees whose work happens entirely behind the scenes.
Let's take an example. At a restaurant a lot of praise goes to the chef de cuisine. But the final product requires the input of many other people, from dishwashers to line cooks. During this month's Academy Awards, several Hollywood stars who took to the stage at Los Angeles' Dolby Theatre to collect an award made it a point to thank "all the cast and crew," making sure they gave recognition to all those who, even in small ways, contributed to the movie's success.
So how can business leaders keep tabs on employees' ideas and performance, determine how their individual contributions impacted the final product or strategy, and make sure they are recognized and rewarded appropriately? While this is by no means a simple endeavor, experts believe it can be done and the result will be more satisfied employees who have an increased willingness to share their ideas and perform better. But most importantly, any strategy that's undertaken needs to be one that doesn't negatively impact employee engagement. Here are five steps to keep score in an effective way:
- Establish a culture which fosters open communication: In order to be able to keep score of employee ideas, organizations need to first make sure these insights are forthcoming and employees are comfortable sharing their thoughts. It is therefore imperative to create a culture where feedback is not only recognized, but appreciated. Secondly, managers need to keep tabs on who provided certain feedback. If, for example, an employee pointed out a problem with a product prototype that lead to essential changes before mass production, that insight shouldn't be forgotten. Rajeev Venkat, director for solutions marketing at Verint, recommends including feedback given by individual employees in their profile. This system will ensure that no information gets lost or forgotten and no contributor gets left out when the time for rewards and recognition rolls around. Such a system will require a robust feedback collection system that captures information on an individual level, notes Ellen Hannigan, Verint's Voice of the Employee solutions marketing manager.
- Provide avenues for idea sharing: While business leaders might verbally encourage employees to share ideas, some companies have failed to establish structures that facilitate such a process. This is a mistake since it can be interpreted by employees that management is not really interested in their contributions. Matt Storm, director for innovation and solutions at NICE Systems, emphasizes the importance that companies work on structures, for example online collaboration tools, that allow employees to share ideas and information, which can then be tracked and used to determine who contributed to a particular project and also weigh individual employee's input.
- Introduce recognition throughout the process: Many times a project needs to be finalized for organizations to properly reward and recognize those who contribute. However, Mal Poulin, product director at Ancile Solutions, believes that this shouldn't be the case and instead leaders and managers need to be forthcoming with feedback about individual employees' ideas and performance even when a project is still within inception stages. "Thank employees, make them feel heard," he stresses. Mike Maughan, product marketing manager at Qualtrics, agrees, stressing the need for a culture of recognition based on consistent feedback. Further, Poulin notes, leaders need to familiarize themselves with the different stages of a project to better understand the value of different employees' contributions and how they were a factor in the final result. Maughan notes that timely recognition is especially important for Millenials, who tend to value immediate gratification.
- Create cross-functional teams: Most projects require collaboration between different departments, meaning that several people are involved at various stages of the process. One of the drawbacks is that people involved in the earlier stages often don't receive the recognition they deserve for their contributions. Anna Convery, OpenSpan's executive vice president of sales and marketing, recommends creating a cross-functional task force made up of employees from different departments who will be involved in the project from inception to end. Convery notes that this was a strategy undertaken by TELUS, when the company wanted to involve employees in the organization's transformation. "TELUS created cross-functional teams that met regularly and brought ideas to help transform the business," she notes. Convery adds that the bonus of this strategy was that the teams worked together throughout the implementation of the project, allowing for more effective performance tracking. And if it's not possible to include certain contributors to every meeting, for example because of proprietary information which they cannot be privy to, TeleTech's Exeter recommends giving them updates about the project.
- Gamify the process: The concept of gamification for human resources functions has been gaining traction in the past years. We've seen organizations introduce gamification to encourage their employees to share insights and be rewarded for their expertise. The use of scoreboards will help employees visualize their progress, even allowing them to compare themselves against their colleagues. Matt Storm, director for innovation and solutions at NICE Systems, recommends introducing friendly competition among employees, motivating them to share ideas. Recognition can be as simple as awarding a badge that an employee can show on an intranet, or an employee-of-the-month program that acknowledges top achievers.
- Be transparent: While employees know that their contributions are being measured, they also need to know what systems and criteria are being used to score their performance. "Transparency is essential," stresses OpenSpan's Convery. Not only does transparency help showcase a process as fair, but Convery explains that when employees know what the goal is and how their performance is being scored, it motivates them to become more engaged. Storm agrees. "There should be no secrecy around why someone won a prize or received accolades," he says.
Once organizations have a robust system to keep track of employees' contributions, business leaders might consider the introduction of a variable pay based on performance. NICE's Storm notes that while in the past it was difficult to implement regular variable pay because reviews were carried on an annual basis, modern tracking systems can give businesses the information they need to introduce such a system. For example, customer survey results can be tied to an individual employee's performance and the ones with the highest experience scores can be rewarded, helping to improve motivation.