Nestle – Innovation & Employee engagement

Challenge

In November 2013, Nestlé asked themselves whether innovation can be fuelled by their employees. Inspired by initiatives like Apple’s Intrapreneurs, Nestlé wanted to apply this model internally, the first of its kind in the FMCG sector.

After all, employees are consumers too!

But what Nestlé realised is that the employees behind the ideas were just as important as the ideas themselves. So they aimed to develop their employees as intrapreneurs and not just focus on ideation. This gave their employees skin in the game and gave Nestle the opportunity to embed a value that they wanted to see more of, in Nestle – Agility.

Solution

The InGenius program was created. Employees submit their ideas to innovation challenges that Nestle posted through the program. A shortlist of ideas was then created and employees behind the idea were given the chance pitch their idea to senior management. The InGenius team invests heavily in employees who reach this stage by coaching them, helping them develop their concepts, and validating their idea/product prototype.

As a result these employees learn how to research, ideate, prototype, test, and pitch, with the aim of highlighting the business potential of their ideas. The ideas that are backed by senior management are then accelerated to pilot testing.

InGenius’s goal was to encourage ideas and to ensure there was a process in place to nurture the entrepreneurial employees who emerged from the process. And they succeeded. The program has been around for 6 years now!

They maintained momentum through the stories and videos created as a result of successful idea submissions. Employees and potential employees could see that Nestle not inly encourages employee led innovation, but also developed the employees who came up with these ideas to be better ‘intrapreneurs’. The InGenius microsite created a community of internal entrepreneurial talent.

Results

To date, 4,800 ideas have been shared, and 67 projects have been funded across the world.

Nestle’s real benefit was that of people development. Not only did a whopping 63,000 employees engage with this initiative, those who were involved as ‘intrapreneurs’ now bring a start-up mindset to the business. Others learned that collaboration and support for ideas is just as important as the ideas themselves.

InGenius’ success is evident in the stories and innovations that have evolved from the initiative and the increased employee engagement. Further, it is estimated that some of the problems that were solved and implemented through this initiative saved Nestle millions of dollars.

Today, companies need a way of engaging and retaining their top talent. Not only this, but companies also need to find a way to develop talent in a way that is in keeping with the culture the company wants to embed. Agility in the FMCG sector has long been a topic of discussion. While most other companies are struggling with this, Nestle has found a way to inspire their team to be agile and catalyse them to solving problems that Nestle faces – key for the coming months!