One thing customers realize after launching their SoapBox is that some of the ideas from an employee idea program will align with projects that are already underway. At first, these ideas may not appear to be all that helpful. It’s not an idea that’s going to open up new opportunities or provide a new solution to a challenge. However our customers also eventually realize and point out that there are unexpected benefits to these ideas and that they should also be managed.
An opportunity to communicate
One way that the idea helps is by highlighting an opportunity to communicate what’s happening with the project. The larger and more complex an organization, the harder it is to communicate all the projects underway. It’s even harder for employees to absorb all the information they receive every day. Ideas that relate to an existing project are just another opportunity to communicate work that’s underway. There’s an opportunity to move from a one-way, top-down dialogue to a two-way dialogue between employees and leadership. Project owners get feedback if and when employees are unaware of what they’re working on or don’t have the latest update.
It can help prioritize existing projects
Another way that feedback on existing projects can help is that it can help reprioritize the project. Knowing that multiple employees have contributed feedback that the idea has merit and would be valued, is a good another data point in assessing the relative impact of the project. This can help inject some urgency in getting existing projects completed. We’ve seen this several times. Projects that were on hold were brought back to life because of the enthusiasm employees had about an idea.
It can improve the impact of the existing project
Organizational behaviour studies consistently show that problem solving and decision making improve with more input. Work already underway can still benefit from additional input from employees. When coming up with ideas, employees are most inclined to provide ideas on the things they are closest to and work on every day. They are the experts on their specific role. Employees that talk to customers every day have great insights into what’s delighting and frustrating customers. Employees working on a production line understand where there are inefficiencies in the process. Ideas related to existing projects can often benefit from the insights of these subject matter experts. The idea and comments that follow can provide important context or insights that can make the project more successful. By incorporating aspects of the feedback, or at least through transparent communication, there’s also an opportunity to increase buy-in and commitment to the project.
Measuring Ideas for Existing Projects
Everyone gets excited about new ideas, but that’s not the only benefit of an employee idea program.
How should you account for this benefit within the context of providing reports on the overall health of the idea program? One way is to classify ideas as those that are original and kick-off new projects and those that are useful to existing projects. You can call these two categories any way you like – but we like “sourced” ideas and “influenced” ideas.