Crowdsourced Innovation: How Enterprises Generate Explosive Employee Engagement

By Jeremy Brown | Crowdsourcing
January 18, 2019

According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the Global Workplace Report, a staggering 85% of employees are disengaged at work.

In other words, the vast majority of the employees in Gallup’s research are not emotionally connected with their day-to-day work or company. The result? A whopping $7 trillion in lost productivity, turnover, poor customer experience, absenteeism, and lower profitability.

For companies looking to grow and expand, the lack of engaged employees is a significant problem that can wreak havoc on long-term success.

To combat the issues that disengaged employees present, companies invest over $100 billion every year on tools and tactics. However, what Gallup’s research shows is that traditional approaches to engaging employees are not as effective as they once were.

Why are engaged employees important you may be wondering? Further Gallup research has found that companies with engaged employees outperform those who don’t by 202%.

If companies are spending billions on employee engagement with very little return on their investment, the question then becomes: what can they do to ensure employees develop an emotional connection with their work and company?

Over the years, many forward-thinking companies – AT&T, Siemens, and Pfizer to name a few – have found success in a practice that has enabled them to supercharge their employee engagement efforts: crowdsourcing.

The power of the crowd: a quick history lesson

Throughout history, crowdsourcing has played an important role – even before it was considered a “thing.”

From the British government crowdsourcing ideas from the public to find a way to measure a ship’s longitudinal position in 1714, to the Oxford English Dictionary leveraging 800 readers to catalog words in 1884. There are countless examples of how tapping into the intelligence of crowds helps uncover valuable solutions and opportunities.

Today, crowdsourcing continues to be a useful practice that has been applied towards a variety of use cases, such as raising startup capital – also known as crowdfunding.

As the old saying goes: there’s strength in numbers.

When it comes to employee engagement, there’s a subset of crowdsourcing that has given enterprises around the world the ability to drive engagement across borders and language barriers in a new, much more efficient way: crowdsourced innovation.

Crowdsourced innovation for employee engagement

Crowdsourced innovation, and the software that enables it, gives enterprises the power to tap into the collective intelligence of their entire employee-base through innovation challenges. These challenges can help companies surface new solutions, such as process improvements, and identify opportunities, such as new business models.

An innovation challenge is simply asking your crowd (e.g. employees) a question related to a larger business objective. For example: what new markets should we enter in 2019 to expand our business by 2x? The more specific you can make your question the better.

There are countless stories of companies that have leveraged crowdsourced innovation to create an efficient and effective way of engaging employees. Plus, they were able to generate significant value beyond engagement:

  • One of Campbell Soup Kitchen’s plants was on the verge of closing operations but was saved by an idea an employee had to extract millions of dollars of incremental value out of the by-product the plant was producing. The company is now investing more resources into the plant.
  • Cambia Health Solutions transformed itself from a health insurance company to a health solutions company by leveraging the ideas of employees to create a portfolio of 20 healthcare businesses (many ran by the very employees who shared the original ideas) that have driven $100 million in contributed revenue.
  • Herbalife’s employees got their voices back by being able to share ideas and collaborate, which has enabled them to go beyond their job titles and contribute to the company’s long-term success. They’ve generated over 2,600 ideas with six of them already implemented and many more in development.
  • Hong Kong-based Li & Fung unlocked the entrepreneurial spirit of their 22,000-person workforce through crowdsourced innovation. Now, employees from around the world are empowered to share ideas and challenge the status quo no matter what role or department they’re in.
  • Pfizer continues to generate explosive employee engagement. 77% of its 90,000 employees have participated in the company’s innovation challenges over the years. Pfizer has even identified hidden innovators in departments not known for being innovative.

The stories go on and on.

Imagine having this capability in your hands.

To not leverage the knowledge and experience of employees on a consistent basis is to leave opportunity on the table.

For employees, crowdsourced innovation creates an even playing field in that it doesn’t matter what their role is or how long they’ve been with the company…they can contribute.

When employees have a voice in the business and are able to contribute in meaningful ways, growth happens. This is one of the reasons why companies like Google and Facebook have been so successful over the years. They have employees that feel heard, and executives that want to hear from them and don’t hesitate to take action when a great idea presents itself regardless of who it came from.

Final thoughts

Despite the dismal percentage of employees that are engaged in their work life, there are companies that have found a way to change the status quo – through crowdsourced innovation.

For companies to be successful now and far into the future, their employees have to be engaged every step of the way. Traditional employee engagement tactics are no longer as effective as they once were.

In the modern workplace where collaboration is critical for success and employees are hungry to have a voice, crowdsourced innovation is a practice that gives companies the flexibility to do both and a whole lot more.

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