Drive innovation through engaged employees

‘Innovation’ as a business term came about largely thanks to advancing technology. The modern workplace ideology revolves around dynamism; constant movement and adaption at pace – all of which are good for business. The exponential growth of digital, the gig economy and Industry 4.0 have made sure innovation is a pre-requisite to high performing organisations.

Innovation versus invention

Innovation is not just inventing new things. To invent is to create something completely new, but innovation doesn’t necessarily mean starting from scratch. Innovation is a process of developing something that solves a problem, adds value, and that you and your team can execute well.

The link between innovation and engaged employees

It is widely accepted that more innovative companies perform better; 84% of leaders agree innovation is critical to business success, according to Mckinsey. And so do engaged employees. According to Gallup’s 83,000-person survey across 73 countries, organisations in the top quartile for employee engagement also had 20% higher productivity rate.

While the simple solution to creating a culture of innovation may be for leaders to engage their people, with 94% of employees unhappy with their company’s innovation, that’s no mean feat. And so, it begs the question: do happy, engaged employees drive innovation, or does a culture of innovation, create higher performing and more committed employees?

Whatever you decide, there is a commercial need for businesses to foster a culture of innovation within their workforce to keep up with today’s rapidly changing world.

Building a culture of innovation

Organisations must align with their customers, external stakeholders, industry, and wider world to stay ahead of changing needs and expectations. Bringing your people on the journey involves creating a space where innovation and creativity is valued and where anyone in the business can contribute. Its success ultimately requires a happy workforce that knows what is expected from them.

How can you inspire internal teams to drive innovation?

If you’re serious about maximising innovation, you must first create a compelling internal culture, where innovation is valued and supported. Here are some ways to align your vision of becoming an innovative force, with that of your employees.

  • Overcome barriers

There are many perceived barriers to innovation from a lack of appetite from investors and regulators through to poor technology. But a businesses people are often cited as a barrier to innovation too, either when they do not align with the organisations vision or understand how they can personally contribute towards it.

However, by putting the right structures, processes, training, and support in place, potential resistance from your employees and their capability to serve the innovation process can be greatly improved.

  • Articulate Your Culture

If innovation is not on the top team’s agenda, then it won’t happen. First off you must set goals for what needs to be achieved then design a strategy that will ensure you meet them and bring your people on the journey with you. Design and communicate a culture that will mobilise your people to execute on your innovation plans as you grow. It starts with vision, values, and behaviours, and moves into working practices.

  • Embed a Culture of Innovation

Once you’re clear on your vision and values, you need to embed them in your day-to-day business. While your top team must embody the culture of innovation you want to see, at Culture Consultancy we recommend team-based embedding instead of a top-down methodology.

As innovation will look different to each department or division, take a tailored approach to embedding; make it relevant to each team and give them freedom to move at their own pace. This will leave individuals feeling supported, trusted, empowered and able to make immediate impact as they will understand how innovation is applicable to them.

  • Develop Your Leadership

To have a positive culture aligned with innovation, an organisation needs strong, effective leadership with a defined sense of purpose. While innovation and culture change may not always be driven by the CEO, for it to be embedded successfully the top team must always visibly keep the culture alive.

Leading innovation requires a new set of qualities that senior teams must hone such as horizon scanning, resilience, adaptability, empathy and crucially creating an environment where teams can test and fail.

Leaders need to coach and encourage others and communicate regularly; Managers will be driving day-to-day innovation and so require support. Keep in regular contact with them, share updates to your strategies and communicate your expectations clearly.

  • Understand your teams’ talent

Not everyone in your business will be a natural innovator, but they do all have unique talents and roles to play in building a culture of innovation. According to the GC Index, you will need a combination of strategists (who map the future), game changers (who transform the future), polishers (who create a future to be proud of) and implementors (who build the future) to bring innovation to fruition.

Use individuals’ strengths to help them contribute, add value, and drive growth. Ideas can come from the most unlikely of places when given an environment to thrive. Make sure your people know that innovation is core to their jobs, not an addition to their workload.

Building a culture of innovation, requires teams to be encouraged, challenged, and appropriately stretched out of their comfort zones at milestone moments, but all in a psychologically safe and supportive way, with high levels of trust. Doing it well will allow everyone to play to their strengths, make their maximum contribution, build confidence, and grow within their role and careers.

How Culture Consultancy Can Help

Any change or transformation project requires a clear vision of the future but articulated in a way which enables your people impacted by the change to both understand it and emotionally engage with it. The Culture Consultancy team bring clarity of vision to change programmes and then express it in a compelling and engaging way for the huge diversity of people within your business

If building a culture of innovation and bringing an engaged workforce on the journey is a priority for you, we would love to support you. Get in touch at human@cultureconsultancy.com or read more about innovation and how to harness it in our book, ‘Building a culture of innovation’ too.