A Better and Faster Way to Transform Employee Ideas into Results that Matter

Click on any step of the IMPACT story to learn more.
The Barriers to Leveraging Employee Ideas
Finding the Keys to a Solution
Putting Best Practices to Work
Responding to a Changed Workplace

The Barriers to Leveraging Employee Ideas

It’s an overused but nevertheless universal truth. Every organization’s most valuable asset is its people!

Yet, as employee engagement surveys consistently report, most organizations struggle to leverage the know-how, creativity, and motivation of their workforces for improving performance and achieving important priorities.

A recent survey indicated that four out of five employees say they have ideas for helping their organization perform better. Sadly, more than half of these same employees said they were reluctant to offer their ideas based on poor experiences participating on prior change and improvement initiatives. Their ideas were seldom asked for or given serious consideration and, in most cases, never acted on.

Employee Engagement Challenges Up and Down the Organization

While it is easy to blame the disappointing performance of employee engagement, continuous improvement, change management initatives on “head in the sand” leadership, a closer examination shows a complicated history of organizations struggling to find the right formula for motivating and equipping their employees to go beyond “doing their day jobs.”

The list is long of well-intentioned employee engagement approaches that have failed to meet expectations, from employee suggestion systems to quality circles to Lean Six Sigma, and more. The cause? Senior leader enthusiasm for funding these initiatives wanes quickly because results are not measured or are too slow in coming, deployment is too complicated, and the expense and time burden not worth the investment.

Middle managers are often similarly unenthusiastic about initiatives to tap employee ideas because they inevitably are tasked with coaching, mentoring, tracking, and reporting results while balancing their regular duties. The subsequent time crunch leaves managers feeling it is simply easier to “just do it myself” when improvements are needed, sometimes with success but more often leading to senior leader and employee push-back. It’s a no win situation.

On the front line, beyond skepticism that anything will change as a result of their participation, employees rightfully complain about time-consuming training, complicated forms and templates, new terms to master, and new software to navigate as the price to pay for sharing their ideas. It’s a hassle.
We had to sit through two days of training and months of meetings before we started talking about the solutions that we had in our heads coming in.
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Researching the Leaders in Employee Engagement and Continuous Improvement to Find a Solution

More than 25 years ago, we took on the challenge of finding a better way to quickly, reliably, and profitably engage employees in continuous improvement and strategy execution.

Our research took us to Toyota, Motorola, GE, Proctor & Gamble and other organizations committed to engaging their workforces in change and improvement. Our work with hundreds of clients and more than 10,000 improvement teams uncovered four principles for transforming employee know-how into actions and results that make a significant impact on performance.

Four Keys to Reliably Tapping Employee Ideas to Produce Real Results

1. Start at the top to avoid false-starts

We learned that more times than not, senior leaders do a poor job of targeting where employee ideas and ownership for implementing solutions are needed. Organizations with the best track record for generating results from employee ideas build a place in their strategic planning, goal setting and budgeting processes to identify where frontline input and inclusion is critical to advancing improvement priorities. They invest the time to assess where employee input is needed and where leaders are ready to act on that input. In short, they don’t waste their employees time and erode their trust with false promises and lack of follow-through.

2. Value employee ideas and trust frontline wisdom

The reason to engage employees with their ideas is simple. They are storehouses of practical experience and know-how. Empowering employees  to share what they know early in any improvement effort speeds the discovery of solutions and motivates them to successfully implement those solutions. Organizations with the best track record for leveraging employee ideas encourage and welcome employee ideas but also provide clear direction and disciplined tools for helping employees convert their ideas into action plans and recommendations that leaders will support.

3. Set and keep to a fast pace

Motivation for change and improvement is highly perishable. Employees under pressure to meet daily work demands don’t have the time, stamina, or patience for marathon initiatives. Engaging employees in clearly explained, time-limited team assignments (not more than 60 to 90 days) yields more reliable results and positive employee experiences. It also has the benefit of maintaining senior leader attention as results are delivered faster and learning cycles completed sooner.

4. Make the process easy and reliable

Few employees have the time, expertise, or luxury of mastering complicated methods and tools for converting their ideas into action. When invited to participate in an important change or improvement initiative, employees want to hit the ground running, with no time wasted. More in-depth improvement methods like Lean Six Sigma, while very useful, are better used on an as-needed basis to support employee ideas. We found the most successful “leveragers of employee ideas” are organizations that operate with simplified processes supported by expert coaching and easy-to-apply tools.
Getting our employees to be active participants for improving the business begins at the top with good planning that allows us to confidently hand the ball to our employees to bring their best ideas and energy to our improvement agenda.
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Putting Productive Employee Engagement Practices to Work Across Industries and Cultures

More than 25 years ago, we took on the challenge of finding a better way to quickly, reliably, and profitably engage employees in continuous improvement and strategy execution.

Our client engagements across the globe provided a valuable laboratory for developing a replicable process for transforming employee ideas into better results. We developed toolkits to help senior leaders assess and prioritize where employee know-how and energy can be leveraged to advance strategic objectives. We equipped process redesign teams to quickly identify root cause problems and design Lean optimized processes for implementation. And, we developed a complete, all-in-one solution for empowering frontline employee teams.

Our mission: Cut through the fog of complexity that hampers conventional employee engagement, continuous improvement, change management, and strategy execution initiatives.

The result: Development of a simple-to-learn, easily scaled, rapid results platform for change management, continuous improvement, and strategy execution powered by employee ideas.

Extraordinary Results from Employee Wisdom and Creativity

Equipped with these toolkits and our guided facilitation, clients achieved transformational results faster and at lower cost than conventional approaches. For example, a large federal agency reduced its backlog of unprocessed loan applications from over 90,000 to under 25,000 in less than 90 days through commonsense, employee-led fixes to an archaic IT system and procedural handbook.

A global environmental services company deployed more than 500 frontline employee teams to replicate and advance standardized, best practice approaches to daily operations such as roster management, truck refueling, supplies control, and more.

Employee teams in a large multi-state healthcare provider used our turn-by-turn process to deliver better care at reduced expense, and also greatly expand its cadre of change-capable frontline leaders and employees.
Our experience employing the toolkits showed us that every one of our frontline employees has the potential to lead an improvement team. The key is equipping them with a simple, but reliable process for sharing ideas and developing effective action plans and recommendations that are easy to get behind.
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Responding to a Changed Workplace

The shift to more remote and mixed work environments inspired us to transform our toolkits for engaging employees in continuous improvement, change management, and strategy execution into team collaboration software available for use anywhere and anytime. The challenge was how to make an in-person, workshop-driven experience process perform just as well, if not better, in a virtual setting.

Our design specifications included:

  • Intuitive, no more than two-click navigation to any screen.
  • Visible, turn-by-turn guidance to eliminate learning curves and rework.
  • Simple to understand methods and tools for encouraging open sharing of ideas and gaining consensus on action priorities.
  • Single-site solution, ready for just-as-needed application.

As Easy As Turning on GPS

Our extensive development and testing produced a team collaboration software application easily accessed and securely deployed through a cloud container infrastructure. IMPACT gives organizations the power of a top-down/bottom-up approach to productively engage leaders and employees together to drive faster and better results from continuous improvement, change management, and strategy execution initiatives.

IMPACT is different from conventional project management or collaboration software by providing leaders and teams with GPS-like guidance through the essential steps for converting their ideas for continuous improvement, change management, and strategy execution into action and results. In the process, IMPACT users improve their leadership and teamwork skills while contributing to a culture that values diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The IMPACT Enterprise Site guides helps senior leaders and coaches to pinpoint where IMPACT can be profitably deployed to speed achievement of strategic priorities. Once opportunities are identified and team leader candidates recruited, the focus shifts to the IMPACT Team Site. Teams come together in this guided, user-friendly and secure cloud workspace where turn-by-turn guidance helps them brainstorm, sort, and prioritize ideas; register, develop, and track action plans; and, assess and present results to senior leaders upon project completion.

IMPACT combines the power of research and experience-based methods and tools with digital convenience that reduces the time, cost, risk and hassle of accessing every organization’s greatest store of innovation, its people!
I’m very excited to see these powerful tools transformed for online application. We get the benefits of a proven process for engaging our employees in critical improvement initiatives but now in virtually any setting – remote, mixed, and in person!
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