The purpose of the Survey was to determine if employees have a voice in helping their organisations succeed. Employee involvement in innovation was specifically researched. Innovation was defined simply as “implementation of ideas that add value”.
Based on these results it is recommended that leaders of organisations:
- Acknowledge that innovation is necessary to grow businesses and employees are a key source of innovation
- Recognise that innovation includes ideas that staff have to improve the way they work and how the business operates
- Check whether resignations and/or low employee engagement is related to difficulties employees have in contributing ideas at work
- Offer employees a way to contribute ideas
- Consider using a simple idea capture tool that all levels of staff can use
- Recognise employees who contribute useful ideas
- Allocate resources to capture employee ideas and implement selected ideas
- Assess outcomes in terms of both business improvements and employee engagement
Although 84% of leaders in organisations covered in this survey are talking about the need for innovation, only 69% of employees believe the culture of their organisation actually welcomes new ideas.
This result indicates there is a significant gap in organisations ‘walking the talk’ on innovation.
Frustration was expressed when organisations said they wanted innovation but were not resourcing it. The main reason employees don’t contribute ideas is when they believe their boss is not interested.
Employees don’t contribute ideas when their boss is not interested
A key finding is that over 90% of employees believe they are the best source of innovation, with 57% strongly agreeing and 34% agreeing.
The best source of innovation is employees
Leaders often don’t recognise that their employees are the best source of innovation and could contribute many more ideas than they do now.
76% said they could contribute more useful ideas than they do now, especially those who are 26-35 years old (89%). Younger people and those in lower level positions find it most difficult to get their ideas up the line and these are the people who are often facing the customer and aware of new trends.
Employees could contribute many more ideas than they do now
When asked what would make it easier for them to contribute ideas the top response was 45% wanting a software tool/digital platform that’s easy to use, with lower management particularly in favour at 59% as well as organisations with 5,000 plus employees at 64%.
A software tool/digital platform that’s easy to use would make it easier for employees to contribute ideas
Only 26% of employees said that their organisations offer a software tool/digital platform to contribute ideas, including 41% of organisations with 5,000 plus employees. When an innovation tool is provided, 75% of employees use it.
When asked about incentives being offered for ideas 87% of 18-35 year-olds said they would contribute more ideas if an incentive was offered. Recognition can be a significant incentive.
Young employees (18-35) would contribute many more ideas with incentives
Another key finding is that over 90% of employees would be more likely to stay with their organisations if they could contribute more ideas. Losing employees who want to contribute more would be a significant cost to these organisations.
Employees would be more likely to stay if they could contribute more ideas
Comments showed that employees want more power to implement ideas they suggest. They also want management to be more supportive in testing ideas. Many were annoyed when time was spent developing an idea and either they weren’t empowered to test it, or they received no feedback on why it wouldn’t be accepted. Feedback was shown to be important in building employee engagement.
It seems that there is a mismatch in goals between givers and receivers of ideas. Givers expect ideas to be implemented while receivers may just be seeking information.
This mismatch can lead employees to overestimate the likelihood that their advice will be taken. As a result they can become disillusioned and less likely to offer advice in future.
Therefore it’s very important that leaders allocate resources to both capturing employee ideas and implementing selected ideas.
Comments on the survey results
David Thodey AO, Chair of CSIRO and Jobs for NSW
“I have a strong view that the best source of innovation is your staff. They know the business and how to improve it better than consultants. The issue has always been how do you provide an open forum for those ideas? I really like the IdeaSpies Enterprise solution.”
Tony Nimac, Partner in charge of KPMG Enterprise NSW
“We trialled IdeaSpies Enterprise last year and have continued to use it. It was very well received by staff. It’s thought provoking, fun and easy to use, with no training needed. People see the tool as an opportunity to suggest ideas that could improve the way they work. In addition to specific ideas, we’ve seen themes coming from the ideas that have led to improvements. We give selected staff the opportunity to implement ideas they suggest and have benefited from improving staff engagement.”
Great to get this out there. We need to encourage staff in enterprises to bring all their ideas to work.
My organisation’s leader is fixated on innovation however doesn’t have the resources to fund it. It’s extremely frustrating as the health of the business is crumbling.
It’s one thing to contribute ideas to an organisation but it is even more important to know that you have been heard. Many times the act of being asked to contribute is hollow. Management give the illusion of wanting contributions/ideas but then lack the skills to either give feedback or implement or recognise good ideas.
Motto of our Social Enterprise “One individual can make a difference, but it takes a team effort to make it happen”.
Organisations are too wrapped and comfortable in the way they do things. I often hear ‘don’t go re-inventing the wheel’ or ‘that’s the way we have always done things’. What innovation can people expect when organisations are afraid of change no matter how prepared they think they are.
Innovation in Government is such a challenge when there are cut backs like in WA. Any suggestions are piecemeal. Culturally Australia is a long way behind places such as Scandinavia and the UK.
Innovation is a continuous process and should be part of the organisation culture.
It’s hard to pilot innovations in a nonprofit due to resource constraints. There is often just not enough time on top of your day job to get these new ideas across the line.
In Asia the companies are mainly managed in a restricted and dictatorship way rather than as a place to encourage new ideas.
Teams that are diverse and inclusive will drive and support innovation.
How can you dig in more to understand how companies use data to support idea generation or execution, especially if they don’t use a specific innovation tool?
I would argue that being heard and when appropriate, having ideas implemented is a much bigger incentive than any extrinsic inducement.
Biggest barrier to innovation is not carving out time for i. Second barrier for new ideas – people keep thinking it has to be a big idea. Incremental changes can have a big impact
The issue is not about gathering ideas, the problem is the boys club and factions that have vested interest in their own ideas or existing empires.
Dictatorial senior management not interested in innovation or including others’ ideas.
Innovation is difficult if not impossible when the mindset is cost cutting – it takes leadership and investment to make it work in this environment.
My experience is that in most organisations if you generate a good idea, you have to be prepared to get involved in doing the work to implement it. Too often ideas are thrown around, but the idea doesn’t get implemented because no-one will take the next step to actually work on it. I have never had a good idea knocked back but I always take part in the implementation and I think that’s a key difference.
Our biggest barrier to innovation is time.
Innovation is everyone’s business, at every level of the organisation. It must be able to be implemented and it must improve outcomes to be true innovation. Otherwise, it’s just an interesting (or not so interesting) idea.
I responded yes to offering more ideas if incentives were provided however what I think would be a great incentive is a place where ideas are accepted and encouraged rather than barred and dismissed. An encouraging and receptive manager would be a great incentive.
Incentives are the way to get ideas out of employees.
I think innovation is a topic that is often given lip service by senior management, however due to lack of incentives/organisational structure, it is often overlooked by the average worker as they seek to complete daily tasks. I do have the ability to affect changes in my smaller team and drive process improvement etc however not on a broader organisation level.
This survey is an excellent way of raising awareness of the importance of innovation.
The Survey was sent to over 2,000 employees.
Founder and Chief Idea Spy