In every organization, one simple truth will always apply: engaged employees are better employees. Research from Gallup shows that businesses with highly engaged employees enjoy:

  • 21% more profitability
  • 17% more productivity
  • 24% less turnover

But if you're currently wondering how to engage employees, you're not alone; the same research also found that more than half of the U.S. workforce is currently unengaged with their work. It's time to bridge that gap. Innovation challenges can be an effective solution to engage your employees and improve your organization.

Challenges empower your employees to identify and solve meaningful business problems and explore new opportunities with your business. If you’re ready to take the plunge with your first challenge, here are three tips to help you get started.

1. Solve problems that matter

Challenges should address meaningful problems or opportunities with your business; employees want to know they can have a real impact. For inspiration, think about what presently matters most to your employees and design challenges that address one or more of these critical areas. If you’re not sure where to begin, don’t be afraid to ask!

When you're getting started, be mindful of momentum. Think of potential wins that can be implemented fairly quickly. This is helpful to build trust and buy-in from employees. A steady stream of tangible results will keep your employees excited and motivated to keep participating.

2. Be transparent

Be transparent about the process. This includes communicating with employees before, during and after each challenge.

  • Before: Set a clear target. Pre-challenge communications should describe the problem you’re trying to solve with an emphasis on why this challenge is important to the organization, why employee participation is meaningful and how ideas will be evaluated.
  • During: Provide recurring calls to action throughout the challenge to keep employee engagement high from start to finish. To build excitement and interest, call out trending and promising ideas that arise. Most importantly, provide feedback to your employees. Explain why certain ideas have been chosen to advance, why other ideas can be revisited later and why some ideas missed the mark. Consistent feedback loops can lessen ambiguity, drive engagement and build trust by demonstrating that your organization values the challenge initiative.
  • After: Follow-up with your employees and show them how their ideas produced tangible, powerful results. Celebrate, reward, and show gratitude to your employees for their contribution to the challenge, and highlight upcoming challenge initiatives for further engagement.

3. Follow through

It is critical that you follow through with winning ideas to demonstrate that your employees’ input makes a difference. Before the challenge begins, ensure you have adequate resources and autonomy to fully carry out the challenge, which includes idea development, experimentation and potentially implementation of one or more winning ideas.

Lack of follow through breeds distrust and apathy — two factors that are fatal to employee engagement.

Bonus tip: Make your challenges easy to engage with

Users today expect an intuitive experience with features and workflows comparable to their social networking app experiences. A messy email chain or boring challenge interface will not inspire your employees' engagement. A compelling look and feel is critical.

Engagement through collaboration

Challenges solve the question of, "How to engage employees?" by tapping into your employees’ knowledge and fostering collaborating on the best ideas to move your business forward. Challenges can remove barriers between top-level and boots-on-the-ground employees by increasing visibility and channels of communication.

Your employees should feel meaningful to your organization. Empower your employees to participate and have an impact on the future of your business. For more tips on increasing employee buy-in for your challenges, check out our Ultimate Guide to Generating Employee Buy-In for Your Challenges.


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