Defining and achieving concrete improvements in organizational culture and employee performance is a challenge for organizations of all types. This is an acute reality when an organization is facing a clear mandate or opportunity for this type of change.
Even when a solution, tool or methodology is introduced, it will likely face some internal resistance and shoulder heavy expectations. Those in charge of managing this change are often pushed to justify their efforts and expenditures in a fashion that doesn’t align with the type of gains that are being sought.
The challenge is that so-called “soft” outcomes have indirect paths onto the balance sheet and can be difficult to articulate in a strategy or in terms of ROI potential. Not being quantitative doesn’t mean however, that there aren’t theoretically rigorous approaches to creating positive outcomes.
In fact, the rest of this post should help you both better articulate what it is you’re trying to achieve (workplace well-being) and introduce empirically validated theories for you to use when developing a rigorous approach towards achieving these goals with an Innovation Management program.
Workplace Well-being – what we’re striving for
At a high-level, what we’re talking about is building organizations where employees are productive, personally fulfilled and able to respond adaptively to the dynamic work environment of a 21st century organization. Often this set of characteristics is referred to as “organizational and employee well-being” and is considered “a fundamental element of successful organizations.” It’s manifestations are numerous and include high performing teams, reduced turnover, avoidance of burnout, higher rates of learning and professional development, accelerated knowledge sharing, reduced risk-aversion among middle management and increased organizational citizenship.
While well-being is clearly important, it is also a subjective status and complex concept. For example, Gallup has broken it down into five essential elements and their research is useful for thinking about various aspects of your organization at this stage.
Achieving Workplace Well-being with Innovation Management
When it comes to Innovation Management, there are two key concepts, “Autonomy Support” and “Job Crafting” that you can think of as building blocks of workplace well-being. They have been developed through empirical research and are supported by our experience here at IdeaScale.
Building Autonomy Supporting Environments
Autonomy support refers to the empathetic and empowering context cultivated by acknowledging and understanding employee perspectives. When achieved it “provides employees with opportunities for volition over what they do and how they go about it, encouraging employee initiative, and remaining open to new experiences.” (link)
In one of the defining studies on the subject, Moreau and Mageau conducted research on almost 600 health professionals in 2011 and found that “perceived autonomy support predicts health professionals’ work satisfaction and psychological health.”
It’s not hard to see how an Innovation Management program would help manifest an autonomy supporting environment. By simply introducing this type of program, you’re moving away from a more controlling context towards one that has been proven to increase autonomous motivation and self-determination.
However, there’s far more to gain by making autonomy support a specific objective of your innovation management program and a variety of ways you might do this. For example, you might approach it very directly, by launching a campaign that solicits ideas for how to create a more autonomy supporting environment. Also, when designing the architecture of your program, it’s important pay close and careful attention to how and by whom the ideas are reviewed, improved and selected. Additionally, focus on your capacity to implement top ideas that involve the idea submitters and contributors in the manifestation of their solutions.
Perhaps the most important way in which innovation management can drive the creation of an autonomy supportive context is through the involvement of peers. The health professional study mentioned above found that the role of peers in creating autonomy support to be equal in importance to the contributions of managers. It follows then that you should invest in engagement strategies that not only produce ideas but also drive wide and supportive engagement through voting, commenting and other team-building and refinement methods.
In addition to creating autonomy supporting workplaces, innovation management programs–when fully integrated into an organization–can help employees shape the very nature of their work. This process is referred to as “Job Crafting”.
In more precise terms: “Job crafting… is a method by which employees might create a better fit between themselves and the demands of their jobs.” Through this process “employees can essentially reshape their job such that it becomes more closely aligned with their motivations for work, as well as their individual skills and preferences…” and in so doing, “cultivate a personal sense of efficacy for meeting [the] demands of their job.”
While it’s a nice-sounding idea, “A growing body of research has found that job crafting enables individuals to strike an equilibrium between the demands of their jobs and the personal resources they have to manage them… which helps buffer against stress and increases engagement.” (link)
Here again, there are many ways in which you can go beyond the basic benefits that the implicit job-crafting nature of an innovation management program provide by using job crafting as a objective to develop your program. Similar to Autonomy Support, you can approach it directly by having department managers run campaigns to facilitate specific job crafting processes as described in this paper, or in the very well done Job Crafting Exercise put together by the brilliant folks at the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations.
You might also consider simply integrating innovation management processes into more granular team operations with short ideation sprints rather than large organization or division-wide campaigns. With these smaller engagements, be sure to utilize functions where employees can help shape the parameters of their upcoming projects like IdeaScale’s “fund” function where employees can allocate tokens or hours to an idea they support.
While workplace well-being is a complex and somewhat nebulous objective, our hope is that the concepts of Autonomy Support and Job Crafting can can empower you to better define and articulate the qualitative impacts of implementing and nurturing an innovation management program. If you’re interested in diving deeper into what this might look like at your organization, shoot me an email at Devin@ideascale.com or tweet @devinmc.
This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.
This post is by Devin McIntire, Senior Innovation Technology Adviser at IdeaScale.