Crowdsourcing ideas from employees: does it sound like a stretch? It’s not. Here’s why…
As we enter another pandemic year, the lessons around employee engagement from the past two years, are many.
Entire shifts have been made, to ensure workers feel secure, heard and included in the corporate engine. It hasn’t always been easy. The concept of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ has become all too real, as working from home (WFH) continues to prevail.
Adjustments on behalf of both workers and line managers have been required and navigating these has taken its toll. There’s been trial and error – over and over again.
Amidst all these changes, one of the greatest tactics we touched on last year, was the importance of a talent listening strategy during these uncertain times. Undertaking listening as a dedicated plan of action, has enabled organisations to keep workers engaged. And has enabled workers to feel included and absorbed in their roles.
Never before has listening to your workers been more important.
But there’s one key part of listening to your workers, that can truly transform employee engagement: crowdsourcing ideas from your employees.
Yes, there are pros and cons to this approach. Ideas best suited to your organisation, aren’t typically borne from the trenches. But perhaps they should be?
Today, I’ve taken a look at the process of crowdsourcing business ideas from your workers. And I’ve reviewed the positives and potential pitfalls of adopting this strategy.
Crowdsourcing Business Ideas from your People: How?
Crowdsourcing ideas from your workers, is an excellent opportunity for people engagement.
Unlike a simple talent survey, crowdsourcing involves posing timely, strategic questions to workers, capturing feedback and ideas, then prioritising and utilising these ideas across busines decision-making.
It literally enables workers to have a seat at the business decision-making table.
Crowdsourcing is about an active conversation with employees. It’s not a limited ‘question and answer’ scenario, it’s a perfect opportunity to better understand their thinking, and glean potentially powerful ideas for your business.
There are five key factors to keep in mind, when crowdsourcing ideas from your people:
Spread the Word
Let the business know the crowdsourcing initiative is live! This can be achieved via email communications, announcements in Zoom meetings, intranet postings and leadership broadcastings. Be careful not to saturate the talent population with too many communications though. Instead, make the initiative tempting, sought-after and compelling. Entice your workers into wanting to be involved.
Your employees don’t want to provide a sensational idea – that the business will likely make more money from – only to receive nothing in return. Sure, there’s glory in a great idea. And recognition from peers and the business leadership is a great motivator. But money also talks. Incentivise participation and winning ideas, with a cash bonus or other incentive initiative – like additional leave days or prize offerings.
Scale Idea Evaluations
Setting up a voting system – either across the entire workforce or with a nominated working group – to ensure ideas are evaluated in a timely and egalitarian manner. If only one person is nominated to go through all the ideas, the initiative will take too long to conclude, and will lose momentum.
A combination of ideas is usually the best means for germinating any type of brilliance. Encourage your people to work together on the initiative – and incentivise accordingly. Suggest talent from different departments work together to bring together potentially different ways of thinking and working. Often, the people that have little or no knowledge of a specialised or technical factor, have the best ideas as they’re not too close to it. They can often see opportunity quite easily. Establish an environment of creative collaboration. This will also do great things for your culture, and team spirit.
Be Transparent in Your Assessment. And Retain Veto Rights
Keep the business informed as assessment of the ideas is underway. Give them insights into some of the ideas received. Provide regular shout-outs to teams and individuals who have been particularly noteworthy. By keeping people in the loop, they will understand and support your decisions.
Remember Boaty McBoatface? Boaty McBoatface was the name crowdsourced and selected by the British public for the £200 million polar scientific research ship for the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Ultimately, NERC overruled the public’s vote and named the ship after Sir David Attenborough—another crowdsourced idea. As a compromise, they named an underwater research vessel Boaty McBoatface instead. Because NERC kept them in the loop, the public understood and supported their decision.
As in the above example, retaining veto rights is totally acceptable especially when it comes to business decision-making. Just make sure you’re equipped with solid reasoning for doing so, and keep your workforce in the loop.
Crowdsourcing Ideas from Your Employees: The Benefits
Crowdsourcing taps into the behaviours, thinking, expert knowledge and attitudes of your workforce. It’s a revolutionary approach to market research. Here are some additional advantages:
- There’s a higher probability of success: by using digital platforms to execute your crowdsourcing initiative, everyone across the workforce can be involved. This, of itself, is powerful (and can technically be defined as successful). The more people involved, the more ideas you generate and the higher your chances of success
- You save time and money: by executing the crowdsourcing strategy using digital platforms (like email, IM, and project planning suites), to your own people you’re saving enormous amounts of time and money. Your resources are all internal. You just need to access them strategically. (The added bonus? You’re offering your workers a sense of having skin in the game.)
- Boost employee loyalty: speaking of skin in the game, the initiative has great power to transform talent engagement. Especially if your workers are COVID-jaded. It can make them feel like they’re part of important business decisions and this is a unique and rare talent opportunity.
- Boost belief in your business: internal brand ambassadorship is often a corporate unicorn. Real belief from your people in your business processes and services is often hard-won. But engagement via crowdsourcing has proven to shift perceptions and workforce participation.
Crowdsourcing Ideas from Your Employees: The Shortcomings
The downsides of crowdsourcing are mostly the result of a poorly executed plan. Here are some of the downsides:
- Squeaky doors get the most attention: those people in your business who are always having a say or raising new opinions have the potential to dominate a crowdsourcing initiative. Make sure you give everyone the chance to participate and to be heard equally, particularly those who may be more reserved or introverted. Resentment will abound if the squeaky doors get the most oil.
- Potential for conflict: if animosity or uncertainty exists between departments or parties, this can amplify during a crowdsourcing initiative. Make sure your communications are consistent and clear and keep the parameters of the initiative repeatedly clear.
- Resentment: if the reward or incentive for participation isn’t clear or isn’t enough, resentment will surely arise. Don’t be cheap in your reward offerings.
- Time wastage: if people are so engrossed on winning the incentive, they can become too focused on the initiative, that they neglect their role and output. Time wasting is a huge potential here, so managing the program with rules, boundaries and clever communications will keep this potential downside at bay.
Crowdsourcing business ideas from your people is an achievable and potentially potent opportunity for workforce engagement and business growth. Managed with delicacy, a strategic communications approach and with defined parameters, this is an initiative you can deploy regularly with great success. You can even encourage different departments to execute crowdsourcing for micro ideas. The opportunities here are many.