Innovation in the workplace is one of the important steps towards a successful business. Creating an innovative culture in your organisation ensures that your team is aligned with your objectives and is working towards achieving them using the best means possible.
Your ability to innovate as an organisation is directly linked to your ability to grow, stay relevant and quickly adapt to the changing times. Whether you are looking to create new products and services, meet changing customer needs or improve business processes, instilling an innovative culture in your workplace works out the magic for you.
Why should you care about innovation in a workplace?
The business environment is a fast-paced one. Being a step behind means that you are giving your competitors a chance to secure a larger market share and explore new market opportunities. Moreover, customers, industry players and investors want to be associated with businesses that are in tune with industry trends.
An innovative organisation is an industry leader. An organisation that regularly seeks new and better ways to conduct business has the ability to attract good business and serve the customer better. Creating an innovative business culture gives you an advantage over businesses that are not innovating.
An innovative workplace is also more likely to survive in times of volatility. As you find better ways to do business and meet changing customer demands, you are also strategically positioning your business to easily adapt during unprecedented times. For example, the coronavirus pandemic necessitated the need for businesses to stay on top of digitisation, and businesses that easily adapted are those that have invested time, money and effort in innovation.
Employees are also attracted to workplaces that have a proactive approach to business. They are looking to stay in a workplace where they can be creative and involved in decision making. Retaining the best talent helps your organisation to grow because you maintain a pool of staff who understand and align with your business goals.
How can you encourage creativity in a workplace?
For innovation to happen in a workplace, it has to be supported by your employees; they are the backbone of your success. They have different skills, knowledge and experience that you can tap into to create an innovative workplace. They are the means to which your business goals are met but it doesn’t just end there. Encourage employees to give recommendations and suggestions, they might just have the best solutions that can transform your business. Your employees are also your biggest fans, they are the first people you should ask the hard questions about your businesses.
Here are some ways you can foster an innovative culture in a workplace:
1. Make innovation a core value
Innovation shouldn’t be something your employees only think of when they are tasked to do so. It shouldn’t also be seen as something for top management only. Make room for your staff to think of innovation as part of their daily tasks. Empower them to make tough decisions and give them a reason to care about why they should recognise innovation as a work responsibility. For your staff to realise their full creative potential, you need to help them explore ideas without the fear of negative criticism or ridicule. Be approachable to new ideas and dedicate adequate time to explore them.
To solve some of the pressing challenges within our organisation, we conducted an internal ideation lab dubbed the ‘BongoJam’ where we explored our problems, mapped out solutions to those problems and selected the best possible solution.
2. Embrace staff with diverse perspectives
Creating a company culture means incorporating employees with diverse backgrounds and different perspectives. As you are looking to hire people who align with your company objectives, you are also looking for people with diverse abilities and different passions. Every employee has a different approach to problem-solving as well as different sets of ideas that your organisation can benefit from.
3. Encourage collaboration
Create work practices that allow employees to work together and brainstorm. This could even mean creating dedicated spaces where staff can sit and have formal or informal conversations where they can openly discuss how they can do work better. You could also think of creating an innovation lab to further encourage idea generation and testing in your organisation. Encourage good working relationships amongst employees through peer to peer chats.
You can also encourage collaboration through internal innovation challenges where your staff can work in teams to solve a particular problem within your organisation.
Read about the internal innovation challenge we conducted for a financial institution that was looking for ways to manage the increasing number of customers.
We are also currently working on an internal innovation challenge for Stanbic Bank Zambia which is aimed at helping the bank take incremental steps towards sharper and smarter systems in ways that will positively impact its customers’ banking experience.
4. Provide feedback mechanisms
To encourage continuous innovation among staff, acknowledge every idea and give timely feedback. Create a transparent process for assessing ideas and ensure that everyone understands the process. If you are not going to consider an idea at a particular time, take the employee through why the idea couldn’t work and give direction for a better idea.
For ideas that you have considered, implement them as soon as possible to encourage employees to keep sharing ideas and work towards the success of the idea.
5. Reward employees for their ideas
Use incentives to encourage your employees to keep sharing ideas. When employees see that you appreciate their efforts, they will work tirelessly to improve your business. Rewards could be as simple as public recognition, a certificate or offering further training for employees who have the potential to generate ideas that can boost your revenue.
To encourage innovation at our workplace, we have introduced Kudo’s Awards where any team member can recognise and celebrate other team members who helped them achieve an objective at any particular time.
Also, at the end of every year, we recognise and award employees who made an impact in different aspects of our organisation.
6. Management approach
An organisation with a strict hierarchy creates barriers to innovation in the workplace. A flat but strong management structure eliminates the communication barriers between employees and management and quickens the decision-making process. Flat organisational structures increase employee ownership and level of responsibility because they don’t have to seek permission from several layers of management. This further empowers employees to make decisions on the spot and cultivate an innovative spirit.
Achieving innovation at the workplace is a culture that you build over time and it may take time for you and your employees to get accustomed to a new way of conducting business. Being reluctant to try out new things is riskier than not trying at all.
Our innovation team leads the charge in exploring and facilitating the process to deliver new and improved programmes, products and services. Are you ready to build an innovative workplace? Get in touch with us.