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How Every Company Can Inspire All Employees to Drive Innovation

Innovation by all. How do you encourage it? How do you harness it? And most important, how do you make sure you’re not stifling it? As we talked to top-performing companies of every size and across every industry on our 22nd annual list, the challenge of getting the best ideas from all your employees is the theme that came up more than any other. One obvious example is at our new No. 1: Hilton. Relying on a Millennial Team Member Resource Group is just one of the ways this 100-year-old hospitality company is making sure all employees (in this case, its youngest) get a chance to contribute their best ideas. Attempting to “actively solicit input, new ideas, learnings, and experiences” has become paramount, says Hilton’s chief human resources officer Matthew Schuyler.

Elsewhere on our list, Cisco (No. 6) is developing more and more programs to seed innovation, such as an annual companywide competition in which employees can “invest” tokens in the best ideas (the contest has led to seven proofs of concept and eight patents). Indeed, this list includes dozens of role models for encouraging innovation (which is also the theme of our February Great Place to Work for All Summit). Still, we wondered: Could this magic formula be quantified?

This past summer, the team of data scientists and researchers at Great Place to Work set out to discover what helps set these organizations apart from their peers. As a result, we developed a new metric, which we call the Innovation Velocity Ratio (IVR). It’s a measure that quantifies the friction a company’s employees experience when it comes to having opportunities to develop new ideas, products, or processes. The lower your friction, the higher your score.

In our initial sample of more than 800 certified Great Place to Work companies, many of them scored at the highest level of innovation. Additionally, when comparing IVR against financial performance, we discovered the top-performing companies on our scale saw average year-over-year revenue growth 5.5 times as high as that of their lowest-scoring peers in the data set.

Using the IVR model, we took a closer look at this year’s 100 Best Companies to see how they fared. Here’s what we found:

• The 100 Best Companies offer much more innovative workplace environments compared with companies nationwide, with seven employees feeling empowered to innovate for every two who do not. The top 10 companies of the 100 Best Companies have even stronger Innovation Velocity Ratios; one company’s IVR is an impressive 23 to 2.

• Leaders have a very strong influence on how employees perceive the level of innovation at their company. For example, employees with managers who are approachable and easy to talk with are 31 times more likely to think their company is innovative. And when employees say management genuinely seeks and responds to suggestions and ideas, they are 14 times more likely to think their workplace is innovative (and four times more likely to think it’s a great place to work).

To find out how you can calculate your company’s IVR, visit ­greatplacetowork.com. It might just be the first step toward appearing on a future Best Companies list.

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The topic of “Innovation By All” also will be the theme of the annual Great Place to Work For All Summit, scheduled for February 26-28, 2019 in San Francisco. We invite you to join us and hear from Summit Executive Co-Chairs Kelly Grier, the U.S. chairman and managing partner at EY, and Margaret Keane, president and CEO of Synchrony, who will join Bernard Tyson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, along with dozens of other CEOs and thought leaders who are living the “For All” mission to help every company become a great workplace for every employee. You’ll learn more about what it takes to become a “For All” Leader, new ways that every employee can drive innovation, as well as the steps your company might take to appear on next year’s list.


Michael C. Bush is CEO of Great Place to Work and coauthor of “A Great Place to Work For All.”. Christopher Tkaczyk is the chief content officer. Sarah Lewis-Kulin, Travis Minetti, Kim Peters, Tabitha Russell Wilhelmsen, and Otto Zell also contributed to this project.

 

 

This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Fortune.