What Makes a Good Challenge To Engage Your Workforce?

what makes a good challenge

Table of Contents

Understanding the Top-Down Approach

Top-down or bottom-up? This is the question that always gets asked when a business is looking for the best way to engage a workforce to drive innovation within an organization. In this blog, I will be focusing on a top-down approach, specifically on how to create good challenges or campaigns to drive engagement through a top-down transformation approach.

Driving Engagement through Challenges

Generally speaking, a team responsible for innovation or organizational change will use a challenge or a campaign to put out a call to action to the rest of the business to gain feedback or ideas from the wider workforce. This technique is a great way of getting buy-in from the wider business while using the power of crowdsourcing ideas to move the business forward.

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Through our work here at edison365, we often get asked, “What makes a good challenge?”. So, I wanted to share some insights about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to challenges.

Three Key Ingredients for a Successful Challenge

1. Give the Challenge Structure
2. Provide a Clear Vision
3. Have Fun

Let’s take a look at each of these items and explain what makes them so important to a successful challenge.

The Importance of a Good Challenge Structure

Structuring Your Challenge

Think of a challenge as a question you are asking your organization. The more open-ended the question, the more diverse and open-ended the responses. The more structured and constrained, the more specific the responses. From our experience, regardless of whether the challenge has a broad or narrow field of view, it needs to be:

  • Well-structured with clear objectives and parameters
  • Centered, with a clear purpose and set of expected outcomes
  • Transparent, with timescales and clear timelines and next steps

Elements of a Strong Challenge Structure

  • Clear and Engaging Challenge Title: This is the first thing people will see when they view the challenge. Make it eye-catching, clear, and memorable to draw in respondents.
  • Use Themes to Add Detail: Adding themes to your challenge tells your audience more specifically what it is you are trying to solve. For example, a challenge could be around new office chairs with key themes like health and wellbeing, employee experience, and business efficiency.
  • Provide a Clear and Concise Description: The description should hit key messages and information such as why the challenge was set, what it aims to solve, and how people should respond.
  • Be Clear with Timescales: Always inform respondents about the closing date of the challenge, the next steps, and when they will receive updates.
  • Be Clear with Responsibilities: Make it clear who has set the challenge and who will be reviewing it. This adds accountability and it also provides the organization the opportunity to showcase some ‘visible leadership’. Setting challenges and being seen as a sponsor of employee-led, organizational improvement is a great way to reinforce the positive impact of a leader’s influence on an organization.
  • Secure Senior Sponsorship: Having a senior leader sponsor the challenge shows that the whole organization is involved, and everyone has permission to share ideas.
  • State Outcomes: Clearly state what the outcomes will be for those who respond to the challenge.
  • Use Attachments Wisely: Support your challenge with different mediums of information to cater to different preferences.

Provide a Clear Vision

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The vision for the challenge is the whole reason why it is being set up in the first place. You need to inspire and motivate the organization to provoke action. By setting a challenge, you are provoking a human reaction to a complex question. Bring emotion into the challenge and create the sense that by responding to it, participants are contributing to something bigger than themselves.

Vision Elements

  • Global Challenges: These are easy for your audience to understand and engage with, such as climate change initiatives.
  • Strategic/Organizational Challenges: These challenges link directly to the company’s strategy, engaging employees by showing how their input directly affects the organization’s performance.

Have Fun


Bringing a sense of fun to a challenge can significantly increase engagement. To gain traction, increase interest, and make a lasting impression, your people need to see a challenge as something new, exciting, and refreshing.

Ways to Make Challenges Fun

  • Good and Effective Communications: When you are thinking about launching a challenge, think about your communications plan as a priority to make sure they are engaging and different from the usual organizational communications.
  • Fresh and Different Branding: Try something new with your branding to grab attention and increase engagement.
  • Rewards and Recognition: Clever use of rewards is key for a successful challenge, such as simple thank you cards. It can significantly improve engagement and leave a lasting positive impression.

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Creating a Good Challenge: Concluding Thoughts…

The above isn’t exhaustive but it is effective. If you provide your challenge with some structure and direction, embed and ground it in a cause that is bigger than the sum of its parts, and make it fun, different, and engaging, you will have a challenge that is successful.

This journey won’t be easy so keep at it, keep doing the fundamentals, and set your challenges up correctly and the successes will start to be realized.

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