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Innovation and Engagement Roundup: Early Summer Edition

In this edition of the roundup: HBR reveals the No. 1 issue employees have with those above them, the most common question on employee engagement is turned on its head, and some cool tips to keep workers motivated through the sunniest season.

Leaders not engaging at vital moments: Survey

An HBR post based on an employee survey done by Interact/Harris discovers that the biggest issue blocking effective leadership is not giving employees kudos for their good work.

As author and Interact CEO Lou Solomon notes:

This is startling, considering how much money organizations spend conducting employee surveys and reorganizations, engaging consultants and implementing change initiatives.

The article underlines that making sure employees’ voices have a way to be heard isn’t an option anymore — it’s tied right into an organization’s success.

Too often, businesses fall short not because leaders don’t understand the business, but because they don’t understand what the people who work for them need in order to bring their best effort to work.

From our perspective, the key takeways are found in two of the piece’s suggestions:

  • “Leaders need to notice employees’ unique, specific contributions, and let them know that you notice”
  • that leaders need to proactively ask their employees: “How do you think we could improve?” “What is keeping us stuck?”… Establish a safe environment in which people have the opportunity to express themselves and be recognized for their ideas.”

Frontline workers need to have a say in setting business procedures

Another great HBR piece is from Steve New, with the University of Oxford, and it serves as a reminder of just what can go wrong when the front lines don’t have a chance to provide feedback to those setting company processes.

New sketches out a division — between back-office process “nerds” and those working on the front lines. When these two groups aren’t talking — as has historically been the case, as he sketches out — then subpar results can follow.

The guys with the clipboards are an easy target for mockery and disdain, but there are great opportunities buried in those flowcharts and manuals. There’s no arguing with the onward march of process. The challenge is to bring the nerds back to the front line and to make process design a distributed activity. Only then can we get systems that work properly and intelligent compliance.

To fix this requires a revolution in process thinking — one made possible by widely accessible computer devices that put amazing communications tools right in peoples’ hands.

If process management means cumbersome bureaucracy devised by distant experts, disaster awaits. But organizations that get their central nerds to engage consistently with the people who do the work, then process problems can come to the surface quickly and be tackled head on. Even better, empower workers at all levels to participate in process design and experimentation — to connect with their inner nerd. Process thinking becomes a part of everyone’s job.


Summer (Employee) Motivation

Finally, Jennifer Lonoff Schiff at has a great post on ways to keep your employees happy during the dog days of summer. Her nine tips are all really great — from more flexible hours to company picnics.

We here at SoapBox can vouch for at least two:

  • “Sponsor fun tournaments and team-building activities.” Speaking of which, did you hear about the second annual SoapBox mini-soccer tournament?
  • “Plan fun department or company outings.” Which is what we’re doing with a forthcoming employee getaway to a major Ontario provincial park.

Until next time, have an engaging and innovative start to the summer!

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