3 Ways to Tap Internal Innovation Potential and Improve Morale

image credit Missy Schmidt via flickr
image credit Missy Schmidt via flickr

Innovation has become the benchmark of success for growing businesses, world class learning institutions, and government agencies. Public perception might not envisage government as an epicenter for innovation, and unfortunately these sceptics aren’t entirely wrong. According to the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, issued by the Office of Personnel Management, the overall US government-wide innovation score decreased by 2.1 points from 2012 to 2013, down to a regrettable 59.4 out of 100. In a petition to the White House via its We the People website, a frustrated government employee gets to the heart of the problem, “For anyone outside the government, we are not all overpaid, lazy people. some are hard workers with the same problems you have and maybe more.”

Not all agencies suffered – the Federal Communications Commission’s innovation score improved by 4.6 points. NASA ranks as the best large agency to work for, with an innovation score of 76.0. So what did these agencies do differently? Both agencies have sunk themselves into a framework of innovation, built on the IdeaScale platform, fueled by internal experience and knowledge.

Involving Employees From Ideation to Decision Making
Getting employees involved in the decision process is one thing that Peggy Focarino of the Patent and Trademark Office noted was crucial to employee satisfaction, “I think we will continue with our very heavy focus of getting employee input […] through IdeaScale and letting employees vote to prioritize things they want management to explore and look into.” The Patent and Trademark Office beat out nearly 300 other subcomponents to achieve their spot on top. A platform like IdeaScale provides consistent, easy access for a large crowd, so that employees of every level can contribute ideas and make suggestions. This creates a direct line of communication between the high level decision makers, and the employees affected by these decisions. “And bluntly, it’s our strength that those folks will tell us, because they are closer to [the mission] than we are,” Robert Lightfoot, associate administrator at NASA explained to Federal News Radio.

Rewarding Employees for Good Ideas
From the Best Places to Work research we see that approximately 90% of employees are constantly looking for a better way to do their job, but only 54.7% feel supported by their employers in this pursuit. They have also found that opportunity, reward for, and empowerment to make these changes, as well as 3 other factors (that we’ll discuss in the next section) have a disproportionately high impact on innovation. Ruth Milkman, chief of staff at the FCC taps into this innovation potential by letting employees know, “what they do is important to advancing the mission of the agency, and to doing the things that are important to the American public.”

Being Open with Employees about Implementation
The other 3 big factors found by Best Place to Work are perceived level of respect from upper management, work satisfaction, and opportunities to showcase leadership skills. An IdeaScale community can be a sounding board of ideation, but also a way to keep all employees apprised of implementation. Good ideas can be publicized and congratulated, as well as the work that goes into implementing them. Broadcasting to all employees tells them that they are valued. Making employees a part of big decisions, throughout the cycle, will motivate and inspire future participation.

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