5 secrets to a successful employee ideas program

5 secrets to a successful employee ideas program

Nobody knows a company better than it's employees. In this guide we share how to harness this wisdom and bringing your best employee ideas to life.


Let’s say your company has 10,000 employees. Did you know that over 8,000 of them are likely to have ideas that could improve your business? Yep, 82% of your colleagues, a huge bunch of budding intrapreneurs just waiting to have their voices heard.

On average, 140 ideas generated from that pool of employees could be strong enough to go through to implementation, and the average total business impact is just over $6.6m!

Did you know?

We have a handy calculator here to help you discover the potential of employee ideas within your business!

However, as the old idiom truthfully goes, quantity does not necessarily mean quality. Gathering as many ideas, comments and likes as possible is often the first step, but the biggest challenge can be in identifying the ideas that will actually make a difference to your business.

So, how do you wade through the masses of ideas and ensure that the cream of crop rise to the top?

Well, there are a number of simple (yet very effective) things you can do:

  1. Ambiguity is your enemy – to receive the most relevant ideas, be super clear on the question or challenge you're asking your employees to respond to 
  2. Create the criteria – be transparent about the criteria submitted ideas will be reviewed against, and about what you consider to be a 'good idea' 
  3. Communication is key – open communication channels fully to encourage discussion and feedback, helping to make employees feel valued (whether their ideas are taken forward or not) and empowering employees to highlight the most popular ideas


Make your program question very specific around a challenge that your business is facing. In drilling down to the nitty gritty, you are likely to get far fewer – but most likely better – responses from your employees.

5 thing we've learned about managing ideas at scale

Okay, so your employee ideas program has generated a whole host of great ideas. Lovely stuff! But now what? The real question is how do you pick out and polish the gems?

An average Sideways 6-powered employee ideas program receives anywhere from 50 to 3,000 employee ideas, but we’ve even seen a single program generate a whopping 75,000 ideas! We have therefore already asked ourselves these very questions, and we have a thing or two we can share to make it easier for you, too!  

1. Allocate clear ownership

It’s pretty crucial that someone owns each stage of the ideas process, although this doesn’t have to be the same individual. Taking a ‘divide and conquer’ approach, where different people take control of key roles like communication, reviews, analytics or management, can actually make life a lot easier.


For really big programs, you can go a step further and consider subdividing even further, with individuals owning ideas for certain topics, keywords or business areas.

2. Involve the crowd

The myriad of good ideas generated by your program now shows you how much your employees have to offer. The worst thing you could do now is lose their interest and engagement, so we really recommend involving them in the process going forward.

Instead of taking their ideas and running off with them (as strong as the urge may be…), let them help you in evaluating the best ones.


Why not run an employee ideas program where the first vote is down to your employees, with the leading 10% of ideas going through to the review stage?

3. Prioritize from the start

At the most fundamental level, you have to distinguish between the good and bad ideas that your program generates – otherwise, the exercise becomes overwhelming and, dare we say it, a bit redundant.

Separating the good from the bad must be as simple as possible and, if you can, utilize any available technology to help you prioritize the most promising ideas! The Sideways 6 platform, for example, includes crowd and expert review features to help you prioritize the most promising ideas!

4. Automate to communicate

A simple (but very effective) tip is to utilize automated or semi-automated templates to keep your employees in the loop. We recommend including phrases such as:

  • Thank you for your idea!
  • Your idea has moved onto the next stage, congrats!
  • Your idea is being reviewed, please stay tuned!

This form of streamlined, automated messaging will save you a huge amount of typing time and will undoubtedly maintain that much-needed buzz throughout your program!

5. Delete the repeats

Having generated so many ideas by this point, you will inevitably have some repetition to deal with. Great minds think alike after all!

Using technology such as Sideways 6 that can help you identify and merge duplicate ideas will certainly ease the load. Technology is here to stay, so you may as well take advantage!

So, there you have it! Easy, right? It’s fair to say that we’ve learned quite a lot from 500,000 ideas and, just by implementing these practical steps, you’ll be ensuring your own program generates plenty of (relevant) ideas.

Now just to decide how you’ll spend that $6.6m…

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