Innovation Programs Lead To Greater Employee Engagement

Almost everyone has heard of the Hawthorne Effect, even if you may not know the specific name. It’s a study that you typically hear about from consultants, leadership coaches and motivational speakers on improving productivity.

In short, the Hawthorne Effect was a named after the increase in the productivity of factory floor workers, when changes were made to their environment. Apparently, last century, some social scientists were experimenting with changing the environment on the shop floor and in the best scientific method tradition of measuring, changing one variable, then measuring again, they got some interesting results.

They measured worker productivity on the floor, then increased the illumination level of the lights above the shop floor, and measured again. Productivity went up. They penciled in their notebooks “Brighter light = More Productivity”.

They then dimmed the lights, expecting productivity to worsen. Just the opposite occurred. Productivity went up again. In fact, every time they made changes, productivity went up again. Why was this?

As it turned out, modifying the environment had the effect of changing the worker’s perception of their management. The workers assumed that a) someone was asking for the light to be changed and b) someone changed the light. They were being listened to, and changes were occurring. Highly visible changes that everyone could plainly see.

They perceived that they were being listened to (even though they weren’t) and in return, they worked harder. After a few more experiments, where they gathered ideas as well, the researchers concluded that the most effective way to increase productivity was to gather ideas for improvement from the employees, then visibly implement them, even a few of them, in a way in which all the workers could experience the changes. This improved the perception of management, which led to an increase in employee engagement, loyalty, and greater productivity.

This is essentially the main reason engagement increases when one implements an innovation program. No matter whether you are looking for product and service ideas that you can launch today, patentable ideas for tomorrow, or far future ideas to assist in the development of a future business strategy, the simple act of asking your employees for help, no matter what the challenge is, improves their perception of your leadership.

Imagine how powerful a statement your leadership is making when they utter the simple word “help”. Can you sense the employee engagement and empowerment that your employees will feel when you ask them to address your biggest challenges, even if it’s not their job to solve that specific problem?

Additionally, highlighting the inventors of those ideas is a key motivator as well.

This is another reason simply implementing some kind of innovation management software out-of-the-box is insufficient for a successful program. Innovation programs run on being able to engage your employees with the goal to address your challenges. If they’ve never been asked before, it’s massively motivational.

This is also why we like to run enterprise-wide programs. You have no idea where your next amazing billion-dollar idea will come from. It may come from somebody in head office, or it may come from some far-flung sales office in Dallas or Des Moines. Your senior leadership already have the CEOs ear – why not gather the best of the rest and see what’s out there?

It can even completely change the culture of an organization, especially if your employees may perceive that they are in a “top down” environment where employees don’t feel like they have been listened to.

Pose challenges, gather ideas, and make them happen, then trumpet your successes, early and often. If you do it right, employee engagement can only get better.