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Who’s Got The Next Big Idea?

Great ideas are how companies keep innovating and staying relevant. We are now past the school of thought where employees were expected to only be seen and not heard. The C-suite is no longer the sole gatekeeper of ideas that can make the business better. Pioneered by 3M and popularized by Google, there are many schemes where employees are allowed time off to work on projects that can improve the company. It is common knowledge that innovation comes from people and it is vital to foster the creation of ideas.

However, in order to keep employees engaged, it is important to reward these ideas appropriately. Many employees agree that the quality of their company's recognition programs affects their performance, but only a fraction of them are satisfied with these efforts.

Reward The Idea
Companies often make the mistake of defining rewards as bonuses or financial incentives. While they do have their place, they may not always be possible depending on the company performance or employee needs. They may not always be the best way to reward creativity.

There are also other factors like, for example, if the recognition is private or public; whether it is intellectual or physical; and, these factors are affected by each employee’s motivation. With so much subjectivity, companies can explore subjective, but transparent, reward mechanisms that tie the value of the idea to each employee’s personal motivation.

Recognizing The Big Picture
Once, one of Semco’s engineers analyzed the production process in the engineering department and suggested a few adjustments that would save time. He realized that for every document description generated, his suggestion would save three minutes from the process of filling out the information.

If you look at it literally, it doesn’t look like a big amount of time saved. But, if you multiply three minutes into 1000s of documents into 100s of employees into 12 months in a year, it adds up to a lot of time saved for the organization.

While rewarding the engineer, the company took into account not just the time saved by the proposed adjustment - but, also the fact that it created financial savings and freed up time for other productive endeavors. In this case, the company management rewarded this engineer with a monetary reward that was equivalent to a month’s salary.

An Idea Is Just The Beginning
Most good ideas actually come from employees as they know their day-to-day work the best. By rewarding them for the ideas which are implemented in their work, it acknowledges their value outside of their routine work.

It reduces power distance, as it shows that company leaders are paying attention and that anyone with the next great idea will be rewarded. It improves not just overall employee morale but also increases their sense of belonging and ownership over the company and its well-being.

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