How to Beat the Engagement Crisis With Internal Crowdsourcing

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By Adam Siegel

If you’re still thinking about your employees in terms of carrots and sticks, you’re missing a trick about company culture — and you could risk losing some of your top talent if you’re not careful. As the economy improves and Millennials start comprising the majority of the workforce, employers need to recognize that culture is now the currency of the contemporary business world.

Employees are expecting more from companies, and make no mistake, they are willing to jump ship if they don’t get what they’re looking for.

Gigantic companies like Amazon are particularly vulnerable when it comes to culture. Amazon has been under scrutiny for the double-edged experience it offers its employees. People love the innovative side of the company — the creative freedom and the lack of hierarchical rigidity — but they also find themselves pitted against each other or in highly political environments. The competitive side of Amazon’s culture can be punishing.

Other culture problems that can arise at large companies are organizational issues such as fragmented communication channels, a lack of clear goals, and poor, ill-defined leadership. Research by Gallup has revealed that 87 percent of working people are not fully engaged, and this lack of engagement can be devastating for companies.

In response, company leaders need to start viewing company culture on the same level of importance as their bottom lines — because the two have a surprisingly symbiotic relationship.

For companies looking to boost culture, retain top employees, and stay out of the red, internal crowdsourcing might be a silver bullet.

How Internal Crowdsourcing Can Keep Employees Engaged and Creative

A recent Deloitte survey found that retention is one of the biggest challenges business leaders are facing right now, with more than half of those surveyed describing the situation as “urgent.”

Luckily, the road to the future of work is paved with strategies to make employees feel valuable and reflect their sense of purpose. Internal crowdsourcing can go beyond feedback forms, annual surveys, and town halls to offer employees a sense of genuine creativity and importance at work. It can be used as a way to solicit and prioritize new innovative ideas, leverage the wisdom of the crowd to make future predictions, or task certain projects.

Here are a few tips for how you can implement internal crowdsourcing to build a better workplace community and encourage open communication:

1. Secure buy-in from the top down. Almost half of organizational changes (often) fail for one simple reason: No one is effectively driving and navigating the change from the top. Before you introduce internal crowdsourcing in your company, set it up for success by involving your executives from square one. When executives are visible supporters of an initiative, employees will — subconsciously or not — begin to mirror those feelings themselves. Soon, this mentality will trickle down through the rungs of your organization.

2. Bring external projects into the fold. You’ve seen other companies such as Doritos experience success when they consult their external crowds, but consider moving these headliner projects to your internal team. It’s often your employees — the people who know your company from the inside out — who can come up with the most inventive and feasible ideas.

3. Encourage employee creativity. The key to successful internal crowdsourcing is to make it a legitimate and valuable way that your employees can contribute to the good of the company. Don’t make it extra credit; let people know that they can spend real time on these projects and that their ideas and feedback are vital parts of the company’s forward motion.

4. Sell your relevance. Innovation and trendsetting are powerful strategies for gaining competitive advantages in the marketplace. After conducting more than 1,200 interviews with CEOs across the globe, PwC found that nearly 80 percent of them believe their competitive advantage is fueled by innovation. Internal crowdsourcing can give you access to the creativity and diversity within your organization that you need to produce something truly new and send it out into the market.

5. Make every question actionable. The questions you ask employees should never draw confusion. Keep it actionable and effective. A well-done crowdsourcing initiative means the introduction of a new decision life cycle in which you ask for feedback and directly communicate to employees whether the feedback was implemented. It might feel uncomfortable to depart from a more traditional management style at first, but doing so is a fantastic way to keep employees involved and give them some skin in the game.

6. Go beyond monetary incentives. Many leaders make the mistake of thinking employees are driven by paychecks. Of course, money will make someone happy to a certain point, but it won’t necessarily keep your employees around for the long haul.

According to the 2015 Deloitte Millennial Survey, the biggest incentive that keeps people — especially Millennials — engaged is a sense of purpose. Employees want to know that the work they do positively affects the world and keeps the business’s wheels turning. They want to believe wholeheartedly in the mission of the company and feel that it reflects their own personal values.

Bring crowdsourcing inside and give your employees the power to effect change in your company. There’s no better way to create amazing company culture than by saying to your people, “We trust you. Show us what you can do.”


Adam Siegel
is the co-founder and CEO of Cultivate Labs, an innovative tech company that has created a unique platform to help guide businesses’ strategies and inspire innovation through internal crowdsourcing. Follow Adam and his team on Twitter @cultivatelabs.

Image credit: Pixabay

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