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OPL Crowd Sourcing Initiative — Employee Engagement Survey

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OPL Crowd Sourcing Initiative — Employee Engagement Survey

Ottawa Public Library

Operations & Management | 2012 |

Innovation Synopsis

The OPL used technology to allow employees to anonymously contribute ideas and provide comments and votes on ideas already submitted by their colleagues on workplace improvement initiatives. This was used by OPL management to develop an action plan.


In 2009, the Ottawa Public Library asked employees to participate in a survey to measure engagement. The results, issued in 2010, showed areas of strength as well as opportunities for improvement. To best respond to the survey results and proceed with action planning on areas of improvement, the organization needed to clarify the issues (based on key engagement drivers) with employees and gain ideas for how to address growth areas. It was important to the organization that all employees have the opportunity to participate; however, with a geographically dispersed organization (33 branches spread out over 110 kilometres), bringing employees together was not feasible both financially and logistically. In addition, it would add additional stress on the organization in service delivery as the majority of employees are front line.

Key Elements of Innovation

To engage all employees in the action planning, the organization employed mass collaboration tools to tap into the organization’s “cognitive surplus” to solicit employee input on action items. Using crowd sourcing, a structured idea input process that is entirely web-based, employees were provided with context on the issue (driver). The context included external research on the driver, a definition of the issue, and provided an opportunity to submit ideas, comments, and vote on their favourite ideas from other employees. The online process allowed the most popular ideas to “bubble” to the top. The entire process was completely anonymous, and remained open for four weeks.

Achieved Outcomes

In total, 31 employees (approximately 12% of full-time employees) registered contributing a total of 35 ideas, 208 votes, and 85 comments. Many more employees accessed the site to view comments and ideas posted by their colleagues. After reviewing the input, an action plan was developed identifying which ideas could be actioned and which could not. The results were communicated to employees at an annual all-employee Forum. The organization began the addressing the issues by responding to the most popular idea (developing a framework for conference participation and funding), working through the entire list. To-date, 22 of the 31 ideas have been addressed (either completely or partially implemented). Employee feedback on the process has been positive with 36% strongly agreeing or agreeing that the organization has responded to issues raised through the 2009 survey.