Contributed by Margaret Regan, Director, Executive Programs
Organizations that seek input from employees enjoy higher employee loyalty, attract better talent, and, as a result, are more innovative and competitive than those who do not. Yet, think about how often you have a substantive conversation with your manager. How about with your direct reports?
If your answer is “not that often,” you are not tapping into the largest source of innovation already available within your company. Your employees have all kinds of great ideas that could lead to higher performance, new product development, operational efficiencies, etc. All you need to do is ask! MIT Sloan’s own Associate Professor of Work and Organization Studies, Catherine Turco describes this approach in her book The Conversational Firm: Rethinking Bureaucracy in the Age of Social Media.
Of course, merely asking people for ideas will not be of much value unless you have an effective system to evaluate, select, and develop the best ones. To be successful, designing and implementing such a system requires effort and commitment from the highest levels of management, but the results are more than worth it.
A great example of how giving employees “voice rights” enabled an organization to build a strong innovation pipeline comes from one of our custom Executive Education clients, Morocco’s OCP Group. One of the world’s leading producers of fertilizer, the company’s core mission is to feed the world’s growing population sustainably. In the spring of 2016, OCP Group launched the Movement, a transformational initiative to spur innovation at OCP by sourcing ideas from employees at all levels.
Today, OCP has an active database of more than 1,000 actionable ideas, sixty new teams, and five business units—all linked to the company’s strategic goals of becoming more global, more digitally savvy, and furthering its development as an “organization of learners.” Little of this would have been possible had OCP’s senior leadership not made a systemic effort to really listen to their employees.
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