Helena’s Story – Idea Pipeline

Role: HR Director

It was a phone call from one of our newer employees that did it.

I’m a 15-year veteran of our company. I’ve risen from the ranks of HR Generalist to Director of a small team with far reaching influence. We’re by all measures successful; defying the odds, expanding markets and offices around the globe. With determined grit and well-vetted risks, we’ve made dreams come true for our customers, employees and all financial stakeholders. Along the way, I’ve been a valued member of our team monitoring and acting on opportunities to increase employee engagement, reduce turnover and get the most bang for our hard-earned buck with agile business operation processes and consistent corporate communication.

Just last year, I was honored by my industry peers with a regional award for “Innovative HR Management.” And yet during that phone call with a practically fresh out of school new employee I pressed mute, took the sharpest breath my lungs have powered in years and found myself saying aloud, “I have no idea what I am doing.”

When Covid-19 hit, everything changed. None of my previous work, no symposium, no industry conference or human resources CLE could have prepared me for the experience we were suddenly experiencing. Almost immediately, our salespeople who spend 80% of their time on the road, were being called home. Shop and manufacturing floors were filled with those deemed “essential workers” and as always, yet more than ever, their safety was paramount. Our accounting staff was almost overnight working from kitchen tables, our software engineers were working from, wherever it is they seem to work from. They know how to work remotely…but isolated like that? Our greatest strength is our people. They seek out ways to go above and beyond for each other and our customers. But now, how, with no daily stand ups, no impromptu meetings in the hallway, no managers to inspire and instruct, no standing desk with the three big monitors and those keyboards that look like they’re straight from a spaceship, how could we keep from losing ground let alone sustain our forward march?

From our CEO to that young woman on the phone, everyone needed answers. I had none.

I took my phone off mute and as the young employee spoke, I recalled a little mantra I shared with our hiring managers, “Look for opportunities to hear new ideas from fresh faces. Incredible innovations can come from the most unexpected places.” And so, I turned things around. Instead of grasping for answers, I could share, I decided to listen and even ask my caller a question. For the next 3 minutes she described what would make her employment with us during this unnerving time successful. For the next 30 minutes she described ideas for small and big company changes she’d been discussing with a couple of her peers even before the quarantine.

I thanked her for her candor. I told her I’d been inspired by her ideation and would do what I could to help make some become a reality. I did not mention the most important idea she had unknowingly shared. The answers for how to create and drive a new path forward weren’t going to come from me, they would come from…us. Everyone in our organization deserved to have a conversation like the one I’d just had. I was bursting with the spark of creative problem solving. I was eager to have that same kind of mutually fulfilling communication with other members of our global team. I was once again truly engaged and ready to help uncover a new culture of innovation for our company. I knew those ideas were out there in minds of our clever employees, and with shared inspiration, we’d surface ideas we could all collaborate on and make even better.

I had an idea.

We needed a conduit, something less cumbersome than email, yet more structured than a direct, instant message. We needed to engage those folks who love a blank white board and can fill it with ease. We needed to give those with analytical skills a platform with the opportunity to digest an idea, study it and share feedback. We needed those who simply desired an easy place to frequent for reviewing ideas new and old, seeing if perhaps a once outlandish idea had now found its moment.

We not only needed this service to generate and share ideas, we required this method of engagement to sustain our business now and long after this global pandemic runs its course. We needed a transparent, robust, simple, effective, idea lifeline.

There was no shortage of suppliers for this type of idea facilitation management and I was aware of a few vendors in the space. Most of their solutions were more complex than anyone already at risk of suffering from application fatigue would welcome. Taking that leap to find the right tool was the key. Although we were spread around the globe, we weren’t a large organization and we truly enjoyed learning from one another. We could not lose that trait. We not only needed to maintain knowledge, questioning, challenging and idea sharing as a part of our corporate DNA, we needed to make that critical aspect of who we were even stronger.

Over the next couple weeks, I asked more questions of more employees and our executive team. It became clear this Covid-19 experience had turned our business inside out at its core. We needed something simple, immediately usable and we needed it fast.

An HR colleague of mine recommended I take a look at Idea Pipeline. “Why them?”

He explained they do everything I need right now well, fast and at a great value. He insisted I’d see a return on the investment after even the first few days of its implementation.

Upon launching and introducing Idea Pipeline, a wave of seemingly pent up ideas began to flow in, out and across the enterprise. People who’d always enjoyed working together, were coming together online to share and vet ideas as highly engaged teams. Employees who had once quietly, and almost privately pursued excellence were now sharing their voice. Our Executive Team not only saw the end-of-cycle reports I’d send showcasing the influx of innovation and ways people were beginning to turn ideas into action, with Idea Pipeline’s transparency, they were able to tap into the library of ideas and updates flowing through the application.

Idea Pipeline fast became the business-critical infrastructure of our company’s virtuous cycle of innovation and engagement.

Not once did I need to meet with an Idea Pipeline salesperson or schedule an outside IT consultant to assist with our Go Live. In fact, it was so easy, so worthy the more than affordable investment, I’ll admit to you here, I cannot believe I didn’t advocate for this sooner.

I know Idea Pipeline will move forward and grow with us. It’s now a part of who we are and how we conduct business. Today, a team member is working on an innovative idea that was shared by one of our manufacturing floor supervisors. He calls Idea Pipeline his “electronic suggestion box, but with immediate feedback so I know if I’m on the right track.” I knew his name and that his direct reports loved him. I didn’t know he had a wealth of ideas to share about everything from environmental impact to team building exercises. Now I do and with Idea Pipeline, our entire workforce will move forward with even more deeply rooted trust in each other as team members and highly engaged innovators. I could not have asked for more from something so ideally simple.