Employee generated insights for identifying problems, overcoming obstacles and harnessing opportunities are extremely powerful.   Employees who are at the coal-face of the business, dealing with customers and hearing about competitive activity, have access to vital information.  The collective brain is simply the sum of the entire organisations’ individual brains, working together to achieve a goal.  But how many organisations effectively utilise this powerful resource?collectiveintelhoriz

Sure, organisations have been harnessing their collective brain for a very long time already.  Employee Surveys.  Toolbox meetings.  Performance Reviews.  Workshops.  My question is, how effective are these processes when it comes to continuously improving productivity, agility and innovation?  How many of these processes are in place ‘because that is what you do’, rather than supporting an innovative, agile and productive organisation?  Let’s look at Employee Surveys.

Traditional Employee Survey Methods

Employee Surveys have been around for decades.  Traditionally, they are conducted once or twice in a two-year period, are often quite lengthy, and often create more questions than answers.  Despite communication trends changing over this time with the introduction of social media, employee surveys haven’t really changed.

Having worked as a senior executive for two of the world’s largest online survey and data collection organisations, one thing I know is that it is almost impossible to know how diligently the questions were answered.  And the longer the survey, the more variable this becomes.   There is no way to know how good the data is.  We have many organisations providing surveys for a living who don’t admit to this because it will upset their benchmarking.

Another issue is that surveys don’t always capture ideas and problems.  Think about how many ideas within an organisation are lost or forgotten because there is no central way to capture them.

The continuous alternative

Rather than trying to measure everything that an employee engagement survey tries to measure once a year, an organisation could consider:

  • Having the entire organisation rate itself against key metrics only, on a monthly or quarterly basis through simple, regular ‘check-ins’.
  • Implementing a simple ‘social’ platform to capture ideas as they occur, which also tracks the individuals who are coming up with the ideas.
  • Sharing progress of initiatives in real-time as part of an aligned employee community.

How much more effective could your organisation be if it properly harnessed the power of its collective brain?

Jason Buchanan is General Manager, Insights & Innovation at Optimum Consulting, and will be conducting two webinars about improving productivity through alignment, collaboration and goal-focus on the 18th and 20th of November.  See www.employeelife.com for details.

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