The #1 Bottleneck to Innovation is the Energy of Your Employees

The #1 Bottleneck to Innovation is the Energy of Your Employees

Kevin Fallon / Tuesday, May 16, 2017 / Strategy Management
By Kevin Fallon & Spencer Ivey

“People are our most valuable asset,” we hear. It’s no secret to companies today that a strong work culture and motivated employees are crucial to success. And yet, we see far too many companies get it wrong. 

When we set out to understand how companies can run their innovation and execute on their strategy more effectively, it became clear that the #1 bottleneck to achieving better results is the energy of the employees. However, managers have largely failed to engage their people, evidenced by a Gallup poll that revealed two-thirds of employees are disengaged at work. 

Looking for better performance, executives turn to conventional innovation thinking, which tells you that idea generation is the constraint. Not quite. This is one of our 7 innovation myths

Our research from interviewing more than 1,000 CEO’s from top organizations showed that they are flooded with ideas; the problem isn’t that executives don’t have great ideas floating around, they simply can’t give all of them their precious attention.  

The issue stems from a disconnect between your executive leadership and the rest of the company. Getting everyone on the same page and working towards the same goals is extremely difficult. 

Executive leadership tells you that they just can’t get employees to get things done, while employees tell us that they don’t get enough direction from leadership.  

Research from PwC’s publication strategy+business articulates the problem this way: 

“...executives tend to complain about cultural resistance and disharmony. This complaint is a symptom of lack of strategic focus. Since the company isn’t clear about where it is going, employees don’t know where they stand.” 

How can companies bridge the gap to unleash the energy of their workforce?  

Recommendations

1) Define and clearly communicate the top 3-5 goals of the business. It’s incredibly important to hone your focus on only the most important goals for your business. An example could be to increase new product revenue, defined as products released into the market over the prior 5 years, from 8% to 30% over 8 years. Once you have higher order transformational goals, it becomes clear what smaller initiatives you need to take on.  

Further, ensuring that these goals are transparent to the entire business goes a long way. Having your employees understand how their work contributes to the company’s overall success unleashes their latent motivation and makes them feel important. 

2) Create a system of accountability.
If nobody is held responsible for getting things done, then nothing will get done. We find that if employees and managers commit to one measurable, time-bound task each week to move a specific initiative forward, the pace that a company can move towards its goals increases exponentially. 

3) Run a regular cadence to review your goals and progress. Related to #2, running a regularly scheduled weekly action team meetings is crucial. Treat the time as sacred - avoid rescheduling it at all costs. During the meeting, have your teams review the commitments they made last week and commit to new ones.  

To be sure, implementing these practices can be challenging. Implementing an innovation management software fills the gaps, clearly outlining initiatives and tasks to be done and keeping everyone on cadence. Don’t let your path to success run into an employee bottleneck that can be fixed with an obtainable solution. Pump up the energy of your employees and see your innovation results soar.
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