Tag Archives: Employee Engagement


Innovation in Recessions

thick_arrow_up_5575Successful innovation in recessions was examined in a Harvard Business Review article, Roaring Out of Recession, by Ranjay Gulati, Nitin Nohria and Franz Wohlgezogen.  They looked at increases in sales and earnings during a recession, and the strategies that were employed.  The goal was to determine the best strategy during a recession.  The strategies were grouped into four general categories:


  1. Prevention-focused,
  2. Promotion-focused,
  3. Pragmatic, and
  4. Progressive organizations.

Prevention-focused organizations focus on cost cutting and avoiding losses–a purely defensive strategy.  Within this category, the authors examined two major subcategories:  employee reduction and organizational efficiency.  These types of organizations are risk-averse, and will “batten down the hatches” when a storm approaches.  As a general strategy, prevention is the worst, however, organizations that pursued organization efficiency (vs. employee reduction) were more successful in this category.

Promotion-focused organizations focus on building assets and marketing–a purely offensive strategy.  The thought is that during a downturn, by investing in your core assets and building your branding, you’ll hold onto your current customers and build new ones.  Compared with organizations that pursue the prevention-focused strategy, they tend to do better.   The authors divided this category into market building and asset building.  In general, building marketing worked more effectively than building assets.

Pragmatic organizations do everything.  The pursue both offensive and defensive strategies, in essence, throwing everything they have at the problem.  This strategy is significantly better than either defense or offense alone, but is still not the most optimal.  In this case, they don’t “fine tune” the amounts of each type of strategy, and waste resources.

Finally, there are the pragmatic organizations.  They too pursue both offensive and defensive strategies, however, they only pursue operational efficiencies (with respect to prevent-based methods), and pursue both marketing and asset/capital investment with respect to promotion-based methods.  With this strategy, the financial outcome compared with the next best method, as measured by sales improvement is nearly 40% greater, and the improvement with respect to earnings is nearly 160% greater.

So, the bottom line is you keep your employees, and make capital investments that improve operational efficiency and marketing development–two areas that are best addressed with innovation.  Your people are your best asset, again.

Employee Engagement and Creativity

In research published in the Psychological Bulletin from the American Psychological Association, the question of whether employee engagement leads to success was addressed. The authors examined over 200 previous studies looking specifically for this correlation. In their research, success was defined across a variety of areas, including marriage, friendship, income, work performance, and health. They defined happiness and/or employee engagement as “the frequent experience of positive emotions.”

Shawn Achor suggests several ways to boost or enhance employee engagement in the business environment, and he tested it by asking tax preparers (during one of the most stressful times of the year–tax season) to perform these activities. The bottom line is that it worked, not only in the short-term, but also months after these activities were stopped.

    Jot down three things they were grateful for.
    Write a positive message to someone in their social support network.
    Meditate at their desk for two minutes.
    Exercise for 10 minutes.
    Take two minutes to describe in a journal the most meaningful experience of the past 24 hours.

The researchers also tested whether positive employee engagement was linked with creativity, and found many positive correlations. While they acknowledged that creativity at times requires deliberate negativity or a single-minded focus, there were still benefits to working to make sure that your organization is at least supporting “positive emotions.”

7 Rules for Improving Innovation: #4 Recognition


Employees need to be recognized for their efforts, plain and simple. This is especially trueas you’re trying to drive innovation forward at your company. If you’re not doing this already, you need to start a regularprocess forrecognizing (better yet, rewarding) workers in your company.If the wholeinnovation process is new to your organization, oryour current process is being updated or changed, then you’re most likelyasking employees to perform new tasks that are not already part of their jobs. If this is the case, there must be someunderstandingon their part thatthere’s”something in it for them.”

One way to do this, of course, is to recognize them or give out awards in some sort ofpublic forum. You can pick out these “superstars” by creatingavalue system that ties intothebenefit(aka: cost savings, revenue, ROI, or some other financial metric) ofimplementedideas that sprang from the employee well. If you’re doing innovation right,then you’realreadybenchmarking this, of course, too!

Many companies use a points-based system to trackparticular activities within the innovation process: “Submitting an idea,” “Management approvesan idea,” or “idea gets implemented” are all goodevents to start tracking. Still other companies choose to simply share a monetary award based on the benefits received from a good idea.

It’s all about creating an incentive for employees to share ideas andfollow through onthe resulting new projects.Without that incentive, there is little motivation to strive beyond the daily expectations of their typicaljob function.

Another fairly simple suggestion you can put into play is to create a program for employees to write articles, knowledge base entries, contribute to publications, and make a name for themselves in their discipline. Even ifthese pieces are only used internally, the sharing of expertise isavery powerful way to become recognized for your knowledge and contributions to the company. Supporting employees in this way is asure-firemethod forgetting themto solve problems and share ideasthat they’ve seen work in different environments.All of thisdrives innovation to it’s peak.