By Natasha Kennedy, Senior Vice President, Strategy Research and Matt Roddan, Vice President, Employee Research
A company doesn’t have to be the driving force behind one of the year’s most fascinating product releases to demonstrate innovation, but to foster employee engagement workplace innovation must be a part of the organizational DNA. According to our research, 59 percent of HR managers say innovation is critical to business success, yet only about one-third of organizations are focused on creating an innovative culture.
Yet, any employee, in any role can harness innovation to make a difference in the company and brand. They simply have to know where, how, and why.
First we have to clear up the ambiguous, often intimidating, definition of what it means to innovate. We define innovation as doing things differently to produce better, more efficient, and valuable outcomes for the evolving needs of your business and your customer base. A common foundation that underpins successfully innovative organizations, such as these is the fostering of a culture of innovation that brings out the best in employees. They encourage disruption to the status quo and challenge employees to bring about change.
Innovation can occur on a large or small scale. It can be as simple as making a process easier, saving money with a new solution, or finding a way to make a task more productive. In other words, innovation is not limited to one group, job, or department; it can occur anywhere within the organization. The key to creating a culture of innovation is to make innovation a part of everyday work life.
Employees need to understand that they are permitted to think about making things more agile and they should consider ways to disrupt the norm. Employees feel challenged, engaged and valued when they are encouraged to innovate, which positively impacts performance and job sustainability.
Companies can foster new ideas by providing employees with time to innovate. Managers should encourage out-of-the-box thinking and challenge employees to find new ways to approach common issues. By encouraging innovation and advocating collaboration among groups and across teams, new and exciting ideas have the opportunity to take root. Put incentives in place to motivate employees. Hold employees accountable and reward the effort rather than the outcome. The goal is to create an environment for growth and change. While not all ideas will prove fruitful, an environment where employees feel free to think and create will foster engagement.
Innovative ideas can take a company to the next level, foster relevance, and create an environment where employees are excited and enthusiastic to work. Take sportswear manufacturing company Nike as a stellar example. To foster innovation, all Nike employees work within a framework called “The Nike Maxims.” We’ve highlighted four of the maxims making it clear that innovation is apriority:
- It is our nature to innovate
- Simplify and go
- Be a sponge
- Evolve immediately
By introducing these maxims to new hires from day one, employees know exactly what is expected of them, and they understand the importance of innovation in the workplace.
There is a definitive link between innovation culture and employee engagement. Engaged employees tend to be loyal and committed and will advocate for the brand. When engaged employees are also encouraged to innovate and when the very culture of the organization commends new ideas, the result can lead to significant impact on business performance.
For more information on ways to create a culture of innovation, download our whitepaper “Creative Employee Engagement Through Innovation.”