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Setting the Rules of Engagement

The days of the employee suggestion box are over. Organizations of the twenty-first century are realizing that two-way communication is paramount when it comes to creating a positive workplace culture full of team players.

But engagement is not the new “wild wild west” of the workplace, nor is it an initiative where “anything goes.” Rather, engagement is about loosening the factors that hinder employee ideation and innovation. What it is not about is setting employees completely loose. So, in order for engagement to have direction and to be valuable, organizations must lay down a few ground rules so that everyone involved is heading towards the same common goal.

Rule #1: Have a Net

Every game that you play has a final goal, whether that is crossing a finish line or kicking a ball into a net. The importance of the net is that it sets the key objective for those playing the game.

You can create your own metaphorical “net” for employees by making the purpose of your engagement initiative crystal clear. By doing this, you are ensuring that everyone understands why you are trying to reach this goal and you are helping align all of the employees across the entire organization.

Rule #2: Have a Huddle

Huddles on the field help get a player’s mind focused on the game. This same principle works well with your employees. Have regular pep talks with your employees to remind them of the initiative and its purpose. Doing this has a dual positive effect:

  1. Pep talks (like framing the scope of the conversation) ensure that your employees have the right attitude when participating in your initiative.
  2. Regular two-way chats with staff about the initiative creates a save environment for employees to share thoughts and concerns on important topics.

At SoapBox, we’ve incorporated the 10 minute morning scrum from the Agile development methodology to set the tone for the day. Here’s how you can use the concept of the morning scrum for your idea program.

Rule #3: Build a Team

Every team sport has players that fulfil a certain role. In hockey, there is the goalie, the defencemen, and the forwards, not to mention the coach and other higher-up positions. In football, you have the quarterback, the linebackers, receivers, guards (and the list goes on and on).

Each department has its own function or role within the organization. Some, such as the accountant, may be the goalie, working hard to protect an organization’s finances and assets. Others are the centre forward aiming straight the business objective. The most successful initiatives are ones where everyone is working together as a cohesive unit. Empower your employees by breaking down silos and find opportunities where you can promote collaboration between all different departments.

Building a team does not happen overnight, but it will happen with patience and persistence.


Together – these three rules of engagement will help you build engagement in your organization and help leaders channel the power of employee ideas.

Harness the power of employee ideas.