Survey finds employees believe they are the best source of innovation

Lyn Wood

IdeaSpies Enterprise, a platform for ideas that will improve business performance, yesterday revealed the results of an Employee Innovation Survey.

The purpose of the survey was to determine if employees have a voice in helping their organisations succeed. Innovation was defined simply in the survey as “implementation of ideas that add value”. There are many employee engagement surveys but not employee innovation surveys.

Lynn Wood, founder of IdeaSpies, said “This survey demonstrates the importance of harnessing employees’ ideas through a simple tool that gives them a voice. 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 IdeaSpies Enterprise platform provides businesses with the opportunity to encourage their employees to contribute and implement ideas that may increase productivity and staff engagement.”

David Thodey AO, Chair of CSIRO and Jobs for NSW, said “I really like the IdeaSpies Enterprise solution. 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?”

When respondents were asked how they contributed ideas in their organisations 76% said direct to their boss and 62% said through a team. Teams that are diverse and inclusive drive and support innovation. They can implement quick wins.

90% of employees have had their ideas adopted and 76% said they could contribute more useful ideas than they do now, especially those who are 26-35 years old (89%).

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%.

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, males 81% and females 68%. Perhaps women need more encouragement in some organisations though they have been well represented as winners in programs run by KPMG with IdeaSpies Enterprise.

Tony Nimac Partner in charge of KPMG Enterprise NSW, said “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.”

Employees want more power to implement ideas they suggest. They also want management to be more supportive in testing ideas. 23% said nothing happened with their ideas and 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.

Another key finding is that over 90% of employees would be more likely to stay with their organisations if they could contribute more ideas. Significantly, 98% of lower management would be more likely to stay. Losing employees who want to contribute more would be a significant cost to these organisations.

Progressive organisations are getting rid of 20th century silo thinking and need managers who have vision, imagination and drive (VID) Those who have VID are quick to see the value of ideas and proposals and have the drive to implement them.

Lynn Wood said “It’s a good sign that 73% of employees are offering ideas without an incentive to do so. Recognition of ideas is a strong motivator. It’s one thing to contribute ideas to an organisation, but it is even more important to know that you have been heard.

“Only 27% of organisations provide an incentive to contribute ideas; however, 58% of respondents (65% male and 53% female) said they would provide more ideas if there was an incentive to do so. Significantly, 87% of 18-35 year-olds said they would contribute more ideas if an incentive was offered.

“It’s good to see that 84% of leaders are talking about the need for innovation, but 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. Management often give the illusion of wanting ideas, but then lack the skills to capture ideas in a simple way, give feedback and implement good ideas.

“Management need to stop feeling comfortable about the way they do things – for example by saying ‘that’s the way we have always done things’. In organisations like this, employees who suggest new ideas can be seen as a threat. In more progressive organisations, innovation is part of the culture- a continuous process where employees are encouraged to suggest ideas.”

The Employee Innovation Survey was sent to about 2,000 employees, with 18% responding and volunteering extensive comments. Having established a benchmark, it’s now possible for individual organisations to use the survey to compare their results with the benchmark.

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