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What is employee crowdsourcing and idea management?

The step-by-step plan to creating an employee listening strategy

What’s next? It’s time to put an employee listening strategy in place. Discover everything you need to know about planning, executing, and measuring a successful strategy with this guide. 

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Organizations that listen to employee ideas are innovative, profitable, and able to create a sense of value and belonging for employees.

It's a virtuous circle—When employees are listened to they're more engaged, and engaged employees share impactful ideas for new products, cost-cutting measures, and new opportunities.

By using crowdsourcing, companies can tap into the knowledge of their employees and acknowledge and reward their contributions.

The simplest way to crowdsource is to ask co-workers or direct reports for ideas in a meeting.

What creative ideas do we have to get customers to buy more?

What can we do to reduce costs in our onboarding process?

If you work in a global company with thousands of employees in different countries though, it gets more complex. For companies that need to scale their employee listening efforts, crowdsourcing and idea management are critical. 

Idea management is a structured process of generating, capturing, discussing and improving, organizing, evaluating and prioritizing valuable insight or alternative thinking that would otherwise not have emerged through normal processes.

– Gartner

Here are five things you can do to make sure your crowdsourcing and idea management plan engages employees and drives business innovation.

Open-ended questions about general improvements can work, but successful crowdsourcing campaigns should mainly focus on specific areas of interest or expertise.

“What new products would help us grow sales in China?”

“What improvements could we make to our engineering processes?”

What will make an idea good enough to be implemented? 

How will the company decide (and who will decide) which ideas to take forward? This isn’t going to happen without some effort, so create and publish clear guidelines on what you’re looking for and how the process for consideration will work. Publishing this in advance and hosting it on your intranet will improve transparency and combat any concerns about bias or favoritism. 

It's important to have a process for collection, review, and decision-making. Some ideas will be transformational so you may need at least three stages involving multiple stakeholders.

1. A platform that manages and sorts ideas into campaigns or areas

2. Technical experts to “pass” ideas for feasibility

3. Escalation to commercial/strategic leaders for a final decision

It probably won’t be possible to reply with in-depth feedback if you receive hundreds or even thousands of employee ideas. However, it’s critical for engagement that people understand what’s happened with their suggestions. So, while you might save feedback for the prioritized ideas, everyone who has submitted should be kept informed of the status of their idea. 

People love to celebrate internal successes, and it’s often the case that job promotions and personal stories are the most popular kind of workplace content. So why not use ideas as another way to celebrate your people.

Make sure the people behind the ideas are celebrated at all-hands meetings, on the intranet, in email newsletters, and across all of your communication streams. 

Learn how Nestlé uses crowdsourcing to innovate

How to choose the best idea management platform

Idea management software is a tool enterprise organizations use to go beyond sticky notes and emailed suggestions. A dedicated platform that's integrated with apps such as Teams and Workplace by Meta makes it easy for employees across the organization to submit ideas and then monitor their progress.

For companies and leaders too, these platforms are important because they enable centralized handling, assessing, and managing of recommendations. Because everything is recorded, they also show the ROI, allowing you to see how many ideas resulted in positive outcomes.

Campaign management – Admins should be able to create dedicated innovation campaigns to gather ideas for specific goals or challenges, consolidating them in one central space for evaluation.

Ranking metrics – For campaigns around wellbeing or employee benefits, you may want to let all employees vote on ideas. Ranking by popularity shows strength of feeling and ensures the strongest concepts emerge.

Social features – Ideas should also be interactions. Let people discuss and refine ideas in groups by offering real-time feedback in likes and comments.

An open suggestion box – Campaigns work for specific challenges, but some platforms feature continuously open crowdsourcing suggestion boxes for internal and/or external people.

Gamify for engagement – Gamification features can motivate employee participation and incentivize people to contribute and compete.

Integrations – A platform shouldn’t be standalone if you want widescale adoption. Does the tool integrate with intranet software, Teams, Workplace, and others?

Pulse surveys – Not only do surveys make employees feel heard, they can be an effective way to gather insights without people having to leave their email inbox or intranet homepage.

Forums – Whether they’re on the intranet or in your idea management platform, discussion forums facilitate in-depth collaboration on ideas.

Visualization tools – Enhance your innovation campaigns and crowdsourcing drives with mind-mapping tools that boost creative ideation.

The employee
crowdsourcing cheatsheet

How to create an effective crowdsourcing program

accessible for users

Centrally manageable
for the business

Scaleable for
a large audience

Idea management is a structured process of generating, capturing, discussing and improving, organizing, evaluating and prioritizing valuable insight or alternative thinking that would otherwise not have emerged through normal processes.

– Gartner