Innovation must be an all-inclusive process and that means reaching every employee in every department. This is no mean feat and onboarding everyone is a challenging but necessary process. The natural innovators within an organization are not likely to need much of a push; whereas the shy innovators, who are still capable of fantastic ideas but may lack the confidence to push them forward, will be harder to involve in the process.
To onboard the entire organization, your approach needs to be about shifting attitudes and changing the workplace culture. This may come more naturally to smaller companies and startups. However, larger organizations tend to have more established processes and it is considerably harder to onboard everyone in disrupting these systems. For such a strategy to work, there needs to be a structured program in place and ideally, this should involve the implementation of an idea management software that everyone can understand and use.
'Successful change requires development of a context-sensitive approach. Only under those conditions can employees’ behaviours be adapted and changed.' - Deloitte, ‘Demystifying Change Management’
Ambassadors and Leadership
Visionary leadership is crucial in ensuring that every team is onboarded with the strategy. Innovation leads to change, which inevitably brings resistance. To ensure effective leadership, appoint appropriate innovation champions in each team or department. These leaders will act as ambassadors of innovation, moderating the strategy within their own team of people. The primary aim of these champions is to engage employees and incentivise participation in the innovation process on an ongoing basis.
'75% of change initiatives fall short of expectations due to employee resistance and lack of clarity and leadership support.' - PWC, ‘Unleashing the power of innovation’
Selecting the right people for the task of innovation ambassador is key. Not only should they be influential people, but they should also see the role as a way of achieving their own goals, rather than as an additional burden to their workload. It is also important that they view the task as a permanent fixture, not a temporary one. Staff will always need motivation and encouragement - this is the role of the innovation champions.
Involving all departments
There is no doubt that some departments will be more difficult to onboard than others. Yet every department will have stakeholders in the innovation process, from IT and legal to HR and marketing. Provide each sector with absolute clarity regarding their own roles and responsibilities within the new strategy. This will enable all departments to work together in a productive manner to maximize the breadth of knowledge from across the organization.
Implementation of an innovation strategy must be a collaborative process, both between individual staff members and across teams. Each department is likely to have a different role in the process. Providing clarification around these will ensure transparency and offer the appropriate motivation for each individual to execute their responsibilities. As with the ambassadors, departments must be incentivised to sustain their responsibilities on a long-term basis.
Marketing innovation internally
Adopting a marketing perspective is key to onboarding employees; underestimate the importance of this and you are likely to face resistance. An internal marketing plan should not only inform and educate, it should also incentivise and generate buzz. For the strategy to be a success, you do not just need staff to go along with the process, you need them to be actively engaged and participating. When people are busy, this takes careful persuasion and it is important to emphasize the benefits that an innovative culture will bring, not only to the organization as a whole but to each individual worker.
According to Full Potential Group, business leaders stated that a lack of understanding and communication on the reasons for change (40%) is the main factor that could hamper the success of change initiatives. Outline the goals and processes in a clear and accessible format to avoid confusion or misunderstanding. Emphasize that integrating an innovation strategy into the business will create a new and exciting workplace culture that is more open, collaborative and innovative.
Devise an internal communications plan to function as an internal marketing strategy. This should include a range of formats and channels for raising awareness of the innovation strategy. For example, these could include:
- Launch email
- Launch video
- CEO blog post
- Social media
This internal marketing plan for the innovation strategy is not just for the initial onboarding process. Continue with the communications on an ongoing basis to the point where innovation becomes ingrained into the very foundations of the organization. Share news bulletins, reward notices, blog posts, videos of successful ideas and run follow-up workshops to inspire.
In short, keep people engaged with innovation and it will drive growth and success. To learn more about implementing idea management software into your organization, download our white paper. Packed with advice, cheat sheets, and action plans to help you every step of the way.