• Long Term Success

Driving Participation with Your Innovation Program

In this guide, we show you how to motivate employees to keep contributing and remain active participants in your Innovation Program, particularly by way of feedback, transparency, recognition, and rewards.

Now that you’ve launched your Kindling program, you’ll want to keep the excitement high and maintain the momentum gained during the launch. Your employees have a voice, and now they have a place to share their insights and experiences, but how do you keep them vocal? How do you motivate them to continue contributing to your Innovation Program?

If your goal is to have continued participation and sustained engagement, the best approach is to create a culture that supports creativity and celebrates innovative thinking. Here are a few tips from some of our most successful customers on how they built this culture of continuous innovation:

  • Provide Frequent & Continuous Feedback
  • Be Transparent
  • Recognize Contributions
  • Drive Engagement with Rewards Incentives

Provide Frequent & Continuous Feedback

Active Moderators will be key in driving a healthy Innovation Program. They provide feedback to participants in the form of comments on Ideas and workflow state changes. For instance, a Moderator might ask for more details about how an Idea would be implemented, provide an explanation of why an Idea was declined, or move an idea into a new state once it has met initial approval criteria.

By providing feedback and keeping Ideas moving through a workflow, Moderators let participants know that they are listening and are eager to see ideas realized.

It’s crucial for Moderators to provide feedback regularly and not let Ideas linger unattended for too long as stagnation will impact the morale of Idea contributors. This is especially important in the context of Campaigns, where time is limited and decisions are made quickly. If moderation will not be ongoing and is instead planned as a discrete event at a later date, such as after a Campaign closes or at a quarterly review meeting, it’s important to set and socialize this expectation so that participants know to be patient with a response. Use a Kindling Post when a Campaign launches or a new Category is opened to describe the goals of the Campaign or Category, the evaluation criteria, and the anticipated Idea evaluation schedule.

Before launching your next Campaign, identify your must-haves and deal-breakers and share that list with all Moderators. This will provide clear guidelines for Moderators to do the first round of idea evaluation and quickly respond to participants about their ideas. See our resource on Evaluation Criteria for additional help.

Be Transparent

Recent research shows a strong (.93) correlation between transparency and employee happiness. While transparency is a broad topic and can apply to any number of areas of a business, we’ve seen consistently that transparent decision-making will have a direct impact on how employees perceive the Innovation Program. Transparency can take many different forms, for example:

  • commenting and providing feedback on submitted ideas;
  • indicating where ideas are in the evaluation process;
  • articulating what criteria your team will be using to make decisions; and
  • making clear the reasoning as to why an idea was declined.

A powerful rule of thumb is to make your evaluation criteria clear at the outset. Are you limited to a budget of $5,000? Will all ideas need to pass through legal review or an R&D phase? Articulate these guidelines in a Kindling Post when launching a Campaign or starting a Category. Then, reinforce your evaluation criteria with custom workflow states, e.g. Legal Review, Budget Compliance, Board Approval, and Moderator comments that provide added detail. In these comments, Moderators can explain the reasoning for their decision and even link to an Assessment Summary that describes the factors that influenced their decision.

Customer Insights: In How We Used Kindling at AfterCollege to Engage Everyone in Idea Generation, AfterCollege describes the impact of transparent decision-making:

The best way to create a sense of procedural justice around idea selection is to be transparent and stick to your process.

For most ideas, we evaluated how it would impact our goal. We estimated the expected impact and made sure it was consistent with our vision. We did this right in Kindling. If an idea didn’t fit with our vision, we explained why. If it lost to a similar idea, we explained why. We wanted to create as much visibility into our product decisions as possible.

People could, and often did, ask questions about or push back on some of our assessments. They argued why we missed something or explained how they saw it differently. Sometimes we missed something and this helped us widen our view of the problem. Other times, it was an opportunity for us to share information about our users or customers with an employee who disagreed with our direction.

Check out The Power of “No” in an Innovation Program to see how saying no helps to sustain engagement.

Recognize Contributions

People crave positive feedback, recognition that they put in extra effort, acknowledgement of leaders and peers, and the glow that comes with knowing an achievement has been seen, appreciated, and celebrated. It is common that there will be participants who stand out from the crowd due to their level of engagement or the impact of ideas they’ve submitted. Recognize them in a Kindling Post, in a company newsletter or announcement, or have them present their Idea at a company meeting. Not only will they take more pride in their achievement, others will take notice, too and crave similar recognition, motivating them to contribute.

Customer Insights: One Kindling customer ran a Campaign to name their Kindling program. Once the winning Idea was chosen, the innovation leader posted a video showcasing the winning concept. In the video, which was shared with all participants in a Kindling Post, the winner of the Campaign was interviewed and had the opportunity to describe her Idea and how she came up with it.

Another customer holds regular awards ceremonies to recognize participants who make an impact through their contributions. Innovation leaders present awards in several categories including thought provoking ideas that force curiosity in an outstanding way; breakthroughs that embody a significant discovery or development; Ideas that focus on incremental improvement of process or structure; and Ideas that strive for social and/or workplace responsibility.

Taking the time to recognize these “big thinkers” is a clear signal that your company supports and values the people that contribute to the Innovation Program.

Use the Leaderboard or Campaign Engagement Report to help identify star participants in your Kindling program.

Sustain Long-term Engagement with Rewards & Incentives

In many organizations, the balance between recognition and financial rewards can be tough. Even though these are typically coupled they don't always have the same impact or result. While monetary rewards may work as a short-term solution, they don't provide the sustained or long-term affect that recognition does. Financial rewards, at times, can backfire as this approach misses the point of recognition: people are motivated by more than money. Rewarding people with a rare opportunity or a new area of responsibility or power is often a more meaningful way to build enthusiasm for your Innovation Program.

Customer Insights: Here are some real-world examples of what Kindling customers have done to reinforce rewards & incentives:

  • Professional growth opportunities. By promoting or giving more responsibility to the people that are active and have provided value to the Innovation Program, you show both them and their peers how important participation is to the organization and how valuable their contributions are.

  • More power in Kindling. For employees who are highly engaged in discussion in Kindling, you might offer them the opportunity to be a Moderator and take part in decision-making. By giving people more responsibility in Kindling, they become more engaged in the innovation process and more motivated to help it succeed. They will also help drive motivation throughout the community.

  • Slack-time for innovation champions. The most valuable participants can be given a small percentage of slack-time to work on pet projects or help with your Innovation Program. (“Most valuable” can be based off of previous months/years engagement quality and frequency, for example.) This demonstrates that you value and support their commitment to innovation.

  • Enjoy-share-learn trip to other office locations. Outstanding moderators/champions can be given the chance to go on a trip to another office location. They will be able to interact, share ideas, and learn from teams of their choice (subject to team lead’s approval) and enjoy an all-expenses-paid work vacation.

  • Lunch with an executive. Participants tend to value their job more when they have the opportunity to meet with an executive member of their organization. This can be done over lunch or perhaps during a quick 30-minute face-to-face meeting to get feedback on how they think your innovation project is going as well as their overall experience with the organization.

Rewards should be extended upon accomplishment, not weeks later.
Keep the conversation going on Ideas as they are realized and after; for example, recognize again the contributors to last year’s Idea that’s saving you $10,000 or won a key customer renewal.