Video interview: Light bulb moments at Avios


Avios are always looking to find ways of improving customer experience by working with greater speed and agility and better use of data. Employees are often the source of great ideas – the challenge is how to unlock these. Hanna Greenfield, innovation team evangelist and digital transformation lead, shares their story.

“Before I joined our innovation team, I had experienced firsthand the difficulties that so often prevent organisations surfacing great ideas and the barriers to them getting off the ground. It was my own experience that was the catalyst for wanting to help change things at Avios and with my marketing background, I provided a lens of how to promote innovation internally.” Before joining the innovation team, Hanna worked in marketing. Intrigued with VR technology, she had an idea that she thought would translate into a successful campaign yet didn’t know enough about the technology. She needed the help of their Innovation Lab – a supremely clever bunch of people. who worked in a full sight of colleagues, yet were entirely separated within a glass box in the head office.  She knocked on the glass door…

Getting everyone involved in innovation

Avios Glass Box

“Once the Innovation Lab had got on board with the idea, we quickly developed it into a workable VR (Google cardboard) campaign. It snowballed into a hugely successful campaign, with 1.4million views. What this really showed me was that as a company we needed to break down the barriers that sometimes prevent good ideas getting off the ground. I realised that many colleagues didn’t really know what these clever people did ‘in the glass box!’. Working with the innovation team, we set about raising awareness of what we could achieve if everyone understood that they are all part of innovation.”

It’s not hard to find research that reinforces a link between innovation, employee engagement and commercial success. Figures from Gallup suggest that companies who listen to their employees are  22% more profitable and have happier employees, with 25% lower staff turnover. And a 2018 survey suggests that 4 out of 5 employees have ideas to improve their business, but only 32%* of organisations have any sort of process in place to gather them.  Hanna was keen to find ways to encourage a steady flow of ideas: “We wanted to engage people visibly in idea generation and create a bit of a buzz around sharing their ideas. We felt strongly that if all employees could see the idea generation process in action it would help drive interest and make a link between their contribution and the success of the business.”

For starters, the Innovation Lab moved out of the glass box, and they ran an innovation roadshow to build understanding of what innovation at Avios meant, exploring digital disruption and collaboration technologies.

Use ESN to socialise ideas

Yammer was already used in pockets throughout the organisation and gave the opportunity to socialise ideas as they came up. A Yammer group, ‘Avios Ideas’ was set up and all employees invited to join and start posting and giving feedback on ideas. But what about managing the ideas? The solution for that came from Avios’ parent company IAG, who were already using an idea management platform from Sideways 6  which  provides a scalable way to manage ideas and surface the best ideas quickly.

Avios Light the bulb

Hanna again: “Using the expertise of our parent company, we got support for our campaign from the digital team at IAG. Having sourced giant light bulbs they built a clever computer inside them that communicated with Yammer and the Sideways 6 idea management software platform using hashtags. These large light bulbs were placed around the workplace, and as soon as an idea was submitted on the Yammer group using #lightthebulb, it was picked up by Sideways 6 and the light bulbs began flashing in a different colour according to the relevant idea stream – customer experience; speed and agility; and use of data.”

Once ideas were picked up, Hanna and the team were able to shortlist the best ideas based on likes and comments, and then send them to the expert panel for review.

Success outcomes

Over a five-week period, nearly 500 employees joined the Avios Ideas group and a total of 89 ideas were submitted. Out of these, 12 have been sponsored and form part of the product team road map. The remainder now make up a large bank of ideas that can be taken forward at a later date.

“It was great to see the engagement in people wanting to make the business better. As well as generating ideas, driving this campaign on Yammer really helped us to create some good digital habits too. Creating that transparency was an important step in moving us towards a learn and share mindset in Avios, and helped us break out of our silos.”

Avios has since moved to Microsoft Teams which, Hanna says, “works really well”. “Team Avios is a great space to share ideas and helps us work more collaboratively.” They are working with Sideways 6 on how to use Teams for idea generation – a feature that is on Sideways 6’s roadmap in the coming months.

“We know that everyone has great ideas and we want to give our employees the voice to share ideas they believe will make a difference. My job, together with our Internal Communications Team, is to help create that collaboration culture and ensure we adopt the digital tools that will support us in the future.” concludes Hanna.

Avios Group (AGL) Limited operates the Avios reward currency for the British Airways Executive Club, Iberia Plus, AerClub, Vueling Club and Meridiana Club.  Millions of customers collect Avios in over 190 countries world-wide.  Part of International Airlines Group, Avios is headquartered in the UK, with a global office network in Madrid and New York City.

*State of Employee Ideas research 2018, Sideways 6