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5 ways to encourage innovation in the workplace

John Nelligan


Why encouraging innovation in the workplace is so important.

Companies that invest time, effort and money in finding new and better ways of doing things have a clear advantage over others in the market. For example,  Amazon made groundbreaking innovations in online purchase and delivery (and pretty much everything else). These innovations have given the company a significant advantage over its competitors. And are a major reason for the company’s ongoing dominance. Innovative workplaces are happier workplaces too, with consistently higher levels of employee satisfaction and retention. Your employees are one of your most productive assets in your business. By encouraging innovation in the workplace, with an environment based on innovative thinking and action, you’ll inspire your employees to share their knowledge, experience, skills, suggestions and recommendations.

Here are five ways you can create an innovative environment in your business:


1. Build a culture of engagement

There is no qCulture of engagementuicker way to deliver a message of culture change than by inviting all employees to participate in an innovation campaign or “challenge” that addresses an area of strategic importance to the business. Involving all employees, no matter their age, location or job title, helps to build a positive culture where everyone feels valued and motivated to do their best. This concept of inclusion at scale that is at the very core of crowdsourced innovation.

Further, the more people who have a voice in the company’s innovation program, the greater the diversity of participants, their experiences and their ideas, which has been proven to lead to a higher quality of ideas and better outcomes.

Employees are most innovative when they are engaged in their work, that work is meaningful, and they understand the part they play in the company’s goals. A culture of engagement depends on employees feeling that they can speak and be heard, which in turn depends on managers who are willing to listen.


share ideas2. Let everyone share their ideas

The phrase “leave your title at the door” is important here. Whenever your team has meetings, everyone should encouraged to offer ideas, regardless of their rank at the company. This allows for a diverse range of opinions, ideas and perspectives. An intern may have a brilliant idea but may be scared to offer it. This empowers them to have confidence in their idea.”

It’s important to promote openness between individuals and teams. Good ideas and knowledge in one part of your business should be shared with others. Teamwork, newsletters and intranets are all useful ways to help your people share information and encourage innovation.

It’s also important to make sure you have processes and events to capture ideas. For example, you could set up suggestion boxes around the workplace or hold regular workshops or occasional company away days to brainstorm ideas.

visibility3. Let your employees see the bigger picture

Give your team the chance to see the big picture. As a leader, it’s your job to inspire your employees to stand out by maintaining transparency and open communication. The innovators and creative thinkers in your company want to know that their work is having a material impact. Giving them that visibility allows them to understand how they are making a difference.

Remind everyone why the organisation exists and what it is trying to achieve. Remind everyone that ultimately, they are all trying to achieve the same goal. For many employees, it was the vision of the company that would have played a part in attracting them to work for that organisation in the first place.

By reminding staff of the vision they can be unified as a team around a common purpose. When staff consider organisational decisions through the lens of vision and common purpose, very often perceptions change.



4. Incentivise ideas with rewards

Once a successful idea is chosen, then reward the employee. This can come in the form of financial compensation, flexible work hours, remote assignments; something that suits the specific employee’s needs and keeps them happy and motivated to create more innovative ideas.

Another thing to consider are rewards to include every member of the team. Doing this will create a positive employee experience as well as motivating them to work collectively towards innovation. Individual team members will be more likely to encourage one another to be creative if they know that each member’s efforts to be innovative contributes to team reward.

If a team member has an innovative idea, give them the freedom to take the idea forward, without feeling like they’re putting their professional neck on the line.


acknowledge all ideas

5. Acknowledge all ideas positively

Encourage people to take risks and even fail, and in turn, remove all elements of fear. Fear and failure is one of the main engines of anxiety in creativity. Realistically, not every idea will be the best one, but by encouraging employees to take a risk, you will establish trust by allowing an employee to feel that they can fail and try again.

Always reward people for their ideas and input, even if you don’t agree with them. Never shoot down somebody’s idea in a negative way, always be appreciative of their suggestion and respectfully disagree if you have to. When somebody does share a good idea, make sure the rest of the team knows it. This will motivate the person who provided the idea and inspire others to share theirs.


Final thoughts

By implementing a culture of innovation in your business, supported by work practices to encourage employee participation, your business will move forward in line with industry best practice, and benefit from improved profitability that’s a result of considered growth.

Most importantly, your team will be highly motivated, dedicated and inspired to contribute to the success of your business, as well as your vision.

Of course, it’s not necessarily going to be easy…

Moving towards an innovative workplace takes time, hard work, and a certain amount of forgiveness for error and failure

Don’t be surprised if the changes are harder to implement than you thought. Coming up with new ideas to solve business challenges is the core goal of innovation programs, but the journey is just as important as the destination. Using this process to engage the workforce will, in itself, drive business results through increased productivity and reduced turnover. That’s whether an organisation’s strategic focus is on customer experience, digital transformation, product development, or driving efficiency and cost savings.

With these core KPIs at stake, it’s clear why many of the world’s most successful enterprises are making crowdsourced innovation an integral part of their employee engagement strategy.


More information

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