When innovation programmes fall flat: ready, steady, oh

By Jazz Sandhu, Wazoku

So you have senior management buy-in, the shiny new idea management software and a workforce you hope are just chomping at the bit to share their ideas to make your business more innovative.
But how do you make sure your Innovation programme is a success?
The role of communication in any innovation programme is crucial. Without a successful launch, you could soon be looking down the empty barrel of an idea management platform investment.
Getting a broad workforce with shop floor workers, middle and senior management to all actively contribute to, and see the value in your innovation programme requires a successful innovation programme launch. ‘But I’m not a communications or event planner’ you say?

Seek expertise within the business

People leading innovation initiatives have varied backgrounds – there’s not one route to becoming an innovation programme manager. Some responsible for innovation strategy and management have a customer service background, some technology and others, HR. Rarely are innovation leaders equipped to manage every aspect of their innovation programme and nor should they.

So when planning an internal launch, it makes sense to reach out to experts across the business in marketing, IT, internal comms and HR. Bring together specialists from across the business to feed into your innovation programme launch. Questions to get input on include:

  • What are the different employee groups?
  • What access do they have to the Internet?
  • Which groups are on the road?
  • Where are staff rooms located?
  • What other messages/internal communications campaigns are running around the same time to avoid conflicts?
  • What are the most creative ways to get employees engaged in your programme?
  • Will training be needed on using the Idea Management software or platform and how can this be done to reach disparate employee groups?
  • What are the language considerations of a diverse or global workforce?

In recent years, Internal Communications has earned a reputation for being staid with newsletters and Intranets being the go to tools. Be creative, be engaging and match the communication format to your internal audience. You want to make noise, but just as your company’s customers have lots of people vying for their attention, so does your internal audience.  Finding the right balance between the communications formats that are suited to a varying workforce and providing the information that gets people motivated, isn’t easy – but is necessary for a successful innovation programme. Speak to your technology department and Internal Communications team to find creative formats to launch your programme.

Make noise

Make noise with your launch, but make the right noise.

Use technology, but be human and don’t forget the content!

Content: communicate the why, what and how

So you know who the diverse employee groups are and you know which creative methods are going to get people to look up from desks and listen. But what are you going to tell them? There is no holy grail to get employees engaged in your programme. But there are some pertinent points that will drive employee engagement that those in innovation management should cover.

Make your launch programme about your key stakeholders:

  • How will it make a difference to employees
  • What impact will it have on customers or possibly suppliers?
  • What is the business looking to achieve?
  • Why is their voice valued? And don’t underestimate the power of what’s in it for them.

Also be clear about the tools, including idea management software, being used. At Wazoku, we have a dedicated Customer Success team who work closely with customers to ensure the roll-out of their programmes includes an understanding of using our idea management software to communicate, collaborate, gather and assess ideas and advise on launching. So reach out to your provider and get advice from them too.

Ask your provider

They should have Customer Success stories from companies of a similar size maybe even with similar challenges. Ask them for lessons learned and best practice. And ask to speak with your peers.

Make sure that those you’re asking to participate in the innovation programme, have understood how they’ll get feedback on ideas put forward: how ideas are assessed (criteria) and how they will be implemented. Keep employees engaged and informed through to measurement of ideas implemented. For example, if an idea which is designed to improve customer service is implemented, communicate how you or your team will measure the effect and feedback.

And don’t forget incentives and recognition. Your HR team should be involved from the very start on employee engagement and ensuring that idea contribution is rewarded and recognised. The impact of reward and recognition goes beyond just idea management, impacting organisational culture and employee engagement. There’s a huge opportunity for company-wide innovation programmes to have a positive effect on employee engagement. Just make sure it’s communicated from the start.

Ready, steady, go and repeat 

Once you have a full understanding of what you’re trying to achieve, how it will be measured and who you want to participate, the rest should be easy.

Continue to reach out to the wider business to build an understanding of the employee landscape and use the skills within your business to launch successfully. But what you do post-launch is just as important. An innovation programme shouldn’t be a one off event. To embed a culture of EveryDay Innovation, innovation needs to become second nature and the environment is key.

You’ve launched your programme and initial engagement has surpassed your expectations. Just assessing and reviewing ideas put forward is taking a lot of your time. Now is the time to keep the momentum going and build on it – keep feeding back to contributors on the next stage – your idea management software should enable this with ease.

In fact, feedback is important at every stage. Celebrate contributors and ideas which were successfully implemented. It’s important to communicate tangible results from ideas that are making, or that have made a difference to your business whether improving employee engagement, customer experience or revenue.

Continue to make that noise. To keep ideas coming at the pace and level you’ve planned for, repeat launch cycles. Perhaps run quarterly innovation hubs or annual ideas award events. The options are numerous, but should be based on your resources and culture. But don’t slack, prepare and plan for the launch, but also prepare and plan for a future of EveryDay Innovation.