How do I Empower Leaders to Successfully Collect Employee Knowledge and Ideas?

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Sometimes actions speak louder than words. That is certainly the case for organizations that give employees a voice and prioritize employee knowledge.

Idea-centric companies create idea management systems that allow employees to provide feedback and contribute ideas.

Structured feedback and idea management systems can channel employee knowledge into any company’s continuous improvement and innovation funnel.

Gathering and implementing ideas and insights has a multiplier benefit for organizations. Undoubtedly, this increases productivity while fostering a culture of respect and inclusion. In addition, listening to employee ideas also functions as an employee engagement strategy.

It should be noted that, running a successful employee idea or feedback strategy is more complicated than it seems. Almost 100% of our clients have an “idea strategy” failure story.

Along with empowering employees, you need leaders to buy into the power of ideas.

The first thing you need to do is get the leaders on board. If they don’t see the value in collecting employee knowledge and ideas, you will not get a good return on investment from your efforts.

You can run workshops and do all sorts of things to show them how valuable this is—how it can help them identify problem areas and improve performance—but at the end of the day, they’re the ones allocating the time and resources to keep idea efforts alive. They give the final approval to implement employee-generated ideas.

Strategically, idea efforts allow company leaders to have visibility into virtually all aspects of their organization and operations. Beyond creating a continuous improvement funnel, this visibility is an asset and should inform executive-level decisions.

Empowering leaders to collect employee knowledge must be a planned and conscious effort.

Leaders must be trained to create psychologically safe, inclusive environments where employees feel welcome and can contribute to the company’s success.

Furthermore, leaders must provide the right tools and systems to turn employee knowledge into business benefits. They must acknowledge employees for their contribution and highlight the impact of implementing their knowledge-inspired ideas.

There are 4 aspects crucial to empowering leaders to collect employee knowledge.

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Before empowering leaders, you need them to buy-in to the power of ideas.

1. Workforce Development through Training

Employees must be trained on how to use the systems and software that they will need to share their knowledge. Leaders, or consultants, must train employees to construct ideas using their knowledge and insights. If they don’t, you won’t be efficient at collecting ideas from your employees, which means you’ll lose out on some great insights and information!

Often, idea efforts turn into mediums to channel complaints. There is a clear difference between complaints and ideas. I have yet to meet a leader who wants to have a “complaint box.” Nonetheless, all leaders would all benefit from structured idea-collection efforts!

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2. Clear alignment on Vision & Goals

To achieve long-term success and continued growth, companies must have a clear executive strategy and goals.

To be successful, leaders need to develop alignment between employees and the company’s vision and goals.

The best way to do this is by having open conversations with them about where they see the company going and how they can contribute.

Here are some conversation topics that can help you share and create alignment on your company’s vision and goals:

What does success look like for our organization?

  • Serving customers well?
  • Hiring new employees?
  • Growing our social media presence?
  • How do we measure those results?

Who are our customers (or “clients”)?

  • What does “serving them well” mean for us at this moment in time—this month or this year—and how will that evolve over time?

Communicating the organization’s vision and goals through multiple channels, including e-mails, dashboards, intranets, and software tools, will support leaders in this journey.

3. Channel for communicating employee knowledge

For leaders to collect knowledge and insights, they need a defined communication channel.

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Having equitable ways for employees to communicate helps avoid bias and develop organizational cultures that promote idea generation.

Most of us have heard stories along the lines of “I told my supervisor, but he did not pay attention” or “I provided an idea and never heard about it again”.

The latter, which we call the idea black hole, is one of the main obstacles to sustainable idea generation.

Frontline workers need a psychologically safe space where they can contribute, and their ideas can be objectively evaluated based on merit and not based on the person or department where they originated.

4. Framework for processing ideas

Our research and decades-long experience highlights “lack of action” as one of the leading causes for the low-impact and eventual collapse of idea efforts.

For this reason, we often talk about the Starling Framework. Our proprietary framework allows companies to adopt digital tools that turn employee contributions into business results.

Employee knowledge is just words and thoughts unless put into action. Even when converted into constructive ideas and insights, they will only yield results if successfully implemented.

To motivate employees and ensure their efforts yield the highest benefits, companies must stress the importance of business-impacting ideas.

Your framework should include employee recognition protocols and communicate results obtained from idea collection and implementation efforts.

Conclusion

It may be challenging to get buy-in for a new idea management system within organizations, but by selling it as an employee knowledge collection tool, executives and team members will likely see its value. A good idea management software will turn employee ideas into actionable tasks that can increase profitability and mitigate risk.

Undoubtedly, sharing knowledge on problems and opportunities to make your work more enjoyable and easier is a value proposition for everyone. The more people who support the initiative, the more likely employees will feel encouraged to join in and participate.

Idea management systems replace having to ask questions or conduct interviews on specific topics throughout the year. Instead of asking, “What can we do?” the conversations will shift to “How and When can we implement these ideas?”

Systems, processes, and software will not replace in-person or virtual conversations. Nonetheless, they will turn idea gathering, evaluation, and implementation into part of the company’s everyday operations.

Translating ideas into actions goes beyond achieving results. Companies where frontline and all workers are included can achieve game-changing, competitive advantages through the daily mindset of turning problems into solutions and sharing opportunities for improvement.

Gathering employee ideas is a business need

With today’s pressing global business challenges, capitalizing on collective knowledge is not just a good idea. It is a business need.

Employee knowledge collection is important in building an organizational culture that values employees. You need reliable, easy-to-understand idea management systems and tools to do this!

We would love to hear how you empower leaders to collect employee knowledge. E-mail us or comment below to keep the conversation going!

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