Impact of Employee Engagement on Innovation

There are many statistics on the level of disengagement in organisations, and it’s low; really low. According to Gallup, 70% of American workers are not engaged. Disengaged staff cost organisations, but also impact in more subtle ways:

“78% of engaged employees would recommend their company’s products or services, against 13% of the disengaged.”

“70% of engaged employees indicate they have a good understanding of how to meet customer needs; only 17% of non-engaged employees say the same.”

disengagedemployeeThe impact of employee engagement is no longer questioned. Most large corporates run a regular survey to check the engagement temperature of their employees, with the intention of identifying the problems, overcoming them and hoping that the scores improve next time.

But why is it so low? Let’s take the example of a normal, successful company. A third of employees are looking for a new job, either internally or externally. Another tenth are on holiday or sick. And the remaining employees are incredibly busy covering, and fed up that nobody is noticing how busy they are. An extreme example, but it’s not too far away from the truth.

And then innovation is thrown into this mix. The CEO asks for ideas from employees to solve a problem; a strategic problem that must be solved. Employees don’t respond or participate as they “should” and the blame-game starts. “The process needs to improve”, “nobody understood the problem” or “people didn’t know it was happening.” So the methodology is changed, the topic is further explained and more desperate emails are sent asking for participation. But the process, topic or communication aren’t the problems.

The problem is employee engagement; actually employee disengagement. Innovation challenges demonstrate better than any survey the level of engagement. Low engagement means that people don’t care enough to do extra, and unfortunately, mentioning the word “innovation” doesn’t cause people to leap out of the seats with excitement.

I wish it did.

If people don’t care about the organisation, they are not going to care about solving the big hairy problems, because they don’t feel that the leaders care about them and their problems. If they don’t care about the organisation, why would they help to make it better?

futureInnovation is all about making the future better. It’s about people first and foremost. Therefore, if leaders want people in their organisations to have ideas and implement them, their people have to care about the result. They have to want better. They have to trust and believe that it is safe for them to make suggestions that are out of their comfort zone.

Is it all doom and gloom? Is there any hope? Well, yes, there are a number of steps that can be taken to improve the situation. There is not a short cut because ultimately it is a process of building trust. Trust takes a long time to build, and is very quickly lost.

Here are some steps to increase the innovation success and build stronger employee engagement:
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Innovation Activity Predicts The Future

How healthy is your organisation going to be this year? Will it be growing or will it struggle to survive? The future is uncertain; that’s good for bookmakers and fortune-tellers, but not good if you are trying to plan for the future.

Crystal BallIn my experience, all organisations regularly review their “key numbers”, normally revenue and cost, however, those numbers are in the past, there’s no ability to change what’s happened (legally). What will those numbers be for this month? At best it is intelligent guessing, i.e., forecasting.

Managing your business by your past performance is like driving a car by only looking in the rear-view mirror. You can see what’s happened, but you can only guess what is going to happen, and those guesses are based on what the road looked like previously as you can’t see what’s coming up. The only action left is to hope you guess right and fix the damage when you don’t.

But you can begin to predict the future health of your organisation; there is a way to see into the future. And you already have this capability in your organisation; let me explain…

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Fighting Organisational Policy

Change is hard as we humans don’t like change. However, in organisations, there is another reason why change is so hard, and it’s called Policy.

policyLet me give you an example of Policy in action. I was recently working with a client who was running an idea challenge in their company. The CEO and the board were sponsoring the challenge and expecting great things. To launch the challenge, the CEO emailed every employee to ask them to get involved by submitting their ideas as they ideas were needed urgently. Good so far.
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The Battle Between Innovation and Managers

Innovation initiatives have a habit of causing excitement and expectation; the organisation is trying something different and wanting to do new things. Senior management are anticipating the brand new shiny ideas, and front-line employees can’t wait to be rid of their daily frustrations. So what could go wrong?

Are they listening?

Are they listening?

However, in all this excitement, there’s a group that is usually neglected in the engagement strategy – the middle managers. Often it’s assumed that these managers will support all the company initiatives. It’s their role to toe the line and make sure others do. They’ll buy in surely?

Actually, they don’t.

The role of a middle manager is to maintain the status quo and ensure that set targets are met and the organisational cogs keep turning and working as expected. They are not needed to pursue flights of fancy, a.k.a. ideas, they are employed to keep order and manage resources.

And then they and their team are asked to innovate. What’s in it for the manager? If they are measured on meeting their current objectives, innovation will be seen as a distraction to the “real work” with no guaranteed rewards at the end.

So instead of ideas flowing freely through the organisation and being implemented as quick as you can blink, the ideas get stuck.

Really stuck.
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Money: Bad For Ideas

Money motivates. People tend to like it and usually want more of it. However, is it helpful in encouraging and getting innovation?money

I want ideas; I’ll pay for them. It’s almost crude in it’s approach. Nobody likes to think that they can be bought for a certain price. However, when it comes to innovation, it is often the default.

Let me lay my cards on the table here; I believe using money as a motivator can be immensely destructive!
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On The Road To Innovation Maturity

Innovation in an organisation is not so much an activity; it’s more of a journey. However, you don’t get to the journey’s end of innovation, as by its very nature, it continuously creates new horizons and new peaks to reach.

Bringing Change, Driving Results

When you are on a journey, however, you want to know where you are and where you are going. It’s the same with the expedition of any innovation programme. It is difficult to know how you are doing and make comparisons, because most innovation programmes are new and different, and additionally, there is usually only one innovation programme in an organisation.

How can you tell if you are making headway in your innovation journey, or just heading very fast down a dead-end alley? How can you tell what you are doing well, and what needs to improve?

Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “If you do the same thing over and over again, don’t be surprised that you always get the same results.”

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The Kotter Model: 8-Step Process Ensures Successful Change

Dr John Kotter

Dr John Kotter

Over 30 years ago, Dr John Kotter identified an eight-step model for ensuring successful change in an organisation that sticks. Today, this model is still as relevant as it was then.

Dr Kotter’s model formed the key tenets to the innovation program we created and ran. I wrote the eight steps in the inside cover of each notebook I used. Being both strategic and practical, the model really does work, and when anything went wrong, we found we had normally strayed from the model.

If you are leading or running a change, transformation or innovation program and you are not aware of the Kotter change model, I encourage you to become familiar with it: You will not regret it!
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Guy Clapperton, senior uk journalist

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