03 Jun 3 no-cost ways to boost morale and innovation
The creativity of frontline employees is a major untapped resource at many organizations. Too often, employees who spot opportunities for improvement in their day-to-day work lack the tools to test their hypotheses and put them into action on their own. And if they do manage to send a good idea up the chain of command to senior leadership, they may never hear back about whether it was implemented, and if so, what the results were.
Successful organizations overcome this problem by adopting a culture of experimentation in which employees are empowered to test their ideas autonomously and implement the ones that work. Small changes discovered in this way can lead to massive revenue growth by delivering what customers want. For example, when Amazon moved credit card offers from its home page to customers’ shopping carts, it saw an increase of tens of millions of dollars in revenue.
But it’s not just about the customer experience and bottom line—although those are important. When employees are empowered to test and experiment, they see the direct impact of their ideas on revenue and other metrics, which encourages creative thinking and raises morale. If you want to see your company take on a culture of experimentation, begin with your team.
Innovation starts at the grass roots
Even when the mandate to build a culture of experimentation comes from the C-suite or senior management, the process is ultimately about empowering employees. This is one reason why companies that follow a decentralized model in which responsibility for experimentation is diffused across teams tend to have a higher win rate than organizations with a more centralized structure. Weaving testing into company culture requires grassroots buy-in.
It can also take some pressure off managers. Too often, recognizing great employee work can get lost in the shuffle of day-to-day management duties. A culture of experimentation enables an employee to see their idea tested, observe the impact on business metrics, and take pride in knowing that they made a direct contribution—not to mention the camaraderie and celebrations of wins that come with a “let’s test it” environment. This feedback loop communicates to employees that their work is valued, whether or not their manager has had time to tell them that day.
This does more than just raise morale. It also rewards innovation, encouraging employees to share new ideas and contribute directly to the growth of your company. Such change can also scale up quickly. Promoting experimentation on your team can be the seed for broader cultural change across your organization.
Three ways to build a culture of experimentation
If this sounds like a utopia, far from what your organization can take on right now or something way too big for you to champion—think again. You can build a culture of experimentation on your own team and begin spreading it to the rest of your company in just a few steps. Here’s how to become the spark that ignites the flame.
Share insights. Failing to share what you’re learning across teams is a common mistake among organizations new to experimentation. Tests carried out by one employee often yield insights relevant to others. Build a centralized repository of insights to make sure everyone on your team is aware of one another’s work and can benefit from the findings, while also ensuring that no one is reinventing the wheel. As your repository grows, consider sharing it with other teams, too. Centralizing insights and results will not only turbocharge the impact you see from your own team but also make it easy to add other teams’ data to the mix as your culture of experimentation expands.
Communicate with senior leadership. Building a culture of experimentation is easier with leadership buy-in. When you’re ready to get started, share your plans for testing with leaders in your department or, if possible, members of the C-suite. Align on success metrics for your initiative and set a cadence to update them regularly on your progress. Scheduling a monthly or weekly sync could be ideal, depending on your testing cadence. As you continue to share your team’s results, it’s likely they’ll find insights they can act on themselves, validating the importance of experimentation.
Be a catalyst for change. In this context, a catalyst advocates for experimentation across the organization. The most successful catalysts have testing expertise plus strong cross-departmental relationships, which ideally extend to the C-suite. But you can also be a catalyst for change with or without C-suite say-so. As your experimentation efforts begin to bear fruit, share your results with leaders on other teams and offer to help them implement testing in their own work.
The case for creating an engine for growth
Every good manager wants to keep up employees’ morale, but day-to-day responsibilities can get in the way of offering regular recognition for good work. Testing creates a positive feedback loop in which employees can immediately see their hypotheses confirmed and quickly put them into action. By letting employees see how their actions impact the company’s bottom line, a culture of experimentation both boosts morale and encourages innovation, becoming a powerful engine for growth.
Suzi Tripp is the VP of Insights at Brooks Bell.
Source: Fast Company