If you’re wondering whether you should collect ideas from your employees, our answer is: yes. If you’re wondering why, our answer is: because it would be a shame not to.
As a manager, you might be reluctant to dedicate time from your already busy schedule to listen to your employees’ ideas.
You might think that the process will be chaotic and you won’t be able to keep track of all these ideas, even if you decide to give each one your undivided attention.
Collecting ideas from your employees used to be a chaotic and impractical process. But with the arrival of digital idea management processes, it’s no longer as challenging as it used to be. We won’t lie to you: you’ll still face some challenges, as idea management isn’t always smooth sailing.
However, the effort you’ll need to put in is minimal, and the benefits can exceed your expectations. In this guide, we’ll share with you why collecting ideas from your employees can hugely benefit your company and how to do it efficiently.
Why Collecting Ideas from Employees is a Great Idea Itself
Great things come from great ideas. And by not listening to your employees' ideas, you may be missing out on many great opportunities.
Sometimes, even the smallest suggestion can evolve into a best-selling product, a new update, or an innovation no one has thought of before.
There’s no reason why you shouldn’t start collecting ideas from your employees. There are only reasons why you should.
History proves that collecting ideas from employees can be revolutionary
They say history is the best teacher. And when it comes to idea collecting, history teaches us that it can bring significant benefits. Some of the greatest successes of well-known companies can be attributed to an employee's idea.
Did you know the post-its your desk is surely covered in were an employee idea? It started from a mistake made by an aircraft construction employee and evolved into one of the best-selling office products in the world.
Adsense, one of Google’s most notable successes that now accounts for 25% of the company’s total revenue, was an idea suggested by an employee. And so was Amazon’s free shipping initiative, which later evolved into Amazon Prime, leading members to increase their spend by 150%.
Your employees’ ideas are a low-hanging fruit
Nobody knows your business better than your employees.
They’re on the practical side of things. They go through internal processes every single day. Some of them talk to customers, almost all of them exchange their insights about your company during coffee break, and may complain about the inconsistencies in the procedures during lunch with their colleagues.
Your employees know your business inside out, so they know what needs to be fixed, improved, or added to optimize workflows.
They also know best what your customers want. They’re walking suggestion boxes full of insights they can share with you if you let them.
If you don’t collect ideas, your business might die
Every single one of your employees thinks differently and can add a fresh perspective to your business. Of course, not all ideas will be the winning ones, but the more ideas you collect from your employees, the higher your chances of finding the revolutionary one.
Collecting employee ideas drives innovation and creativity, alternative solutions, and new points of view. It can ultimately contribute to the growth of your business by helping you adapt to new realities and challenges.
After all, you must keep innovating to stay relevant in the market. Once you stop, your business might become obsolete. Remember Nokia? That’s exactly what happened to them once they stopped innovating.
Collecting ideas from your employees is a cheaper alternative to hiring an entire R&D department. Of course, we’re not saying that having an R&D department isn’t necessary because it is (especially for bigger companies).
But if you don’t have one yet, collecting employee ideas can be the first step towards developing new, innovative solutions or adapting the existing ones to the changing market needs.
People always want to feel validated and appreciated. If you create a company culture where employees feel like their voice matters, they’ll feel more involved in the company’s future and more likely to engage in its growth.
This will also translate into better performance at work: lower turnover, higher productivity, and motivation to take on more responsibilities.
It may also inspire collaboration between employees who share similar ideas or agree with the idea originator.
Many managers feel reluctant to collect ideas from their employees because they are caught in the notion that it’s hard and chaotic. It used to be this way when collecting ideas meant costly crowdsourcing projects or impractical suggestion boxes.
But now, thanks to digital innovation, there are idea management tools that allow users to set up automated workflows that make the idea collection process extremely easy to manage.
These automated tools give employees the possibility to submit their ideas digitally and comment on other people’s ideas. It’s much like social media platforms, and it has the potential to quickly turn into a fun thing to do for your employees.
The manager can then easily sort these ideas, categorize them, track them, and shortlist the ones they like the most.
How to Collect Ideas from Employees: a Practical Approach
Once you understand that collecting ideas from your employees is an excellent idea in itself and can significantly benefit your company, another challenge appears. How do you motivate your employees to share their ideas with you?
Unless you create a company culture that encourages divergent thinking and sees it as something positive, your employees might feel reluctant to share their ideas out of fear they won’t be welcomed.
This issue can be easily solved if you approach it correctly. Here’s how to do so.
If you want your employees to open up and freely share their ideas, it starts with building a company culture that encourages them to do so. You need to create an environment where new ideas are appreciated.
Let your employees know why speaking up and contributing their thoughts is important. When you build a supportive culture, you'll see them getting motivated to share their insights.
You can start by educating your employees on concepts like idea meritocracy or blue-sky thinking and implementing them actively in the workplace. Lead by example at the managing level and inspire your employees to follow your approach by setting effective communication campaigns.
Establish a clear, easy, and accessible process
An initiative can only work when there’s a clear process people can follow.
So, when first implementing idea collection into your company culture, start by establishing a clear, easy-to-follow, and accessible process for everyone involved - be it employees or managers.
The most effective approach is implementing an idea management tool or a digital ideabox. This solution will enable your employees to submit their ideas at their own pace and make sharing ideas easy and smooth.
What's more, implementing an idea management tool will allow you to collect ideas on a larger scale and create a structured and transparent workflow.
Set a context by writing a problem statement
To start collecting ideas from your employees, you need to provide them with a starting point. Coming up with just any idea can feel more challenging than coming up with a solution to an existing problem.
So, by setting up a specific context and asking for solutions, you're giving your employees a clear assignment that can kickstart their ideation process.
We’ve also noticed that employees tend to be more responsive when proposing solutions for future-oriented problems rather than past-oriented ones. Requests like “What would be a great feature for our new product?” tend to get more reactions than “How can we solve the recurring problem with our product?”.
To make it easier for everyone to start coming up with ideas, you can start off with questions about the future. This way, employees can gradually get used to the process and adapt their mindset.
As time progresses, you can encourage your employees to freely share solutions to problems you haven't noticed or considered before. By welcoming spontaneous feedback, you can create an environment where fresh ideas and new perspectives emerge all the time.
Recognize great ideas and communicate their real-life impact
Transparency is vital to keep your employees engaged in the idea collection process. They need to see that their ideas aren’t thrown away but put to good use within the company.
It’s also essential to track ideas openly so that anyone can see the comments and discussions about their ideas and why they made it or didn't make it to the shortlist.
Employees should be able to see the real-life impact their ideas have on the company's growth and how they’re being implemented to make improvements.
Sharing successes and giving credit to the idea originators doesn’t only keep employees motivated to share their ideas, but also makes them feel that their voice truly matters.
Ultimately, collecting ideas from your employees is about creating a company culture that supports fresh perspectives, welcomes new points of view, and encourages everyone to have a say. An innovative environment that will create value for the company – both for long term employee retention, and for getting you those gold nugget ideas.
Why do you need a software to collect ideas from your employees?
Using an idea collection software simply makes things easier by automating the process. It helps users track all ideas, sort them, categorize them, and shortlist the most interesting ones. This way, idea collection becomes more organized and easily manageable.
What are the benefits of collecting ideas from employees?
Collecting ideas from employees can help you innovate your products, keep up with the changing needs of the market, and adapt your product to what the customers want. After all, your employees are the ones that know your business the most.
How do you motivate employees to give ideas?
The best way to motivate your employees to share their ideas with you is to foster a company culture that encourages everyone’s input. Communicate why it’s important to you that everyone shares their point of view and reassure your employees that their ideas are always welcomed.
Ready to Boost Employee Engagement?
With fresh insights on employee engagement, here are some powerful steps you can take with Ideanote: