Using innovation as an employee engagement strategy
August 08, 2018
When employees are disengaged, you'll likely notice a decline in the quality of their work, a lack of desire to learn and an overall drop-off in effort. To reawaken their drive, employees must be interested in what they're doing on a daily basis and be challenged by new tasks and projects. Innovation in the workplace is an important employee engagement strategy that not only helps organizations remain competitive, reduces costs and creates value for customers, but also leads to happier and more creative and engaged workers. It's no wonder that innovation is the top priority for CEOs, according to PwC research.
There are endless ideas for innovation in the workplace, such as encouraging employees to flex their creative muscles by coming up with ways to improve an outdated process, participate in a volunteer project or host an interactive training session for coworkers. Here are five employee engagement strategies to generate innovation in the workplace and get employees thinking creatively.
1) Build an Innovative Mindset
By actively hiring workers who are naturally innovative—people who are curious, imaginative and inspired—HR managers can build an employee base that is more instinctively inclined toward innovation. A diverse base of employees who bring different backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints to the table has also proven to be a key part in innovation development.
But innovation doesn't come naturally to everyone, so it is also important to offer training in this area. Boost employees' creative problem-solving, observation and networking skills by holding workshops where they can learn and practice innovation techniques such as mind mapping, design thinking or word association.
2) Create the Right Space
In order for innovation to flourish in the workplace, it is important to set the right conditions. Physical space can inspire or dampen creativity. If employees are stuck in cubicles or a generic meeting room, it can be hard to generate new ideas. If possible, don't overregulate how employees work; incorporate flexible workspaces, greenery and communal rooms that can be used for collaborative meetings and idea generation.
Incorporate technology such as an e-learning content platform that enables employees to search for and discover relevant content, learn valuable skills when and where they want, and easily share useful information with coworkers. Getting out of the office can also provide a new perspective. Encourage employees to take a break by taking a walk outside, offer gym memberships or group exercise classes, or take team field trips to museums or presentations that are relevant to your industry.
3) Break from Daily Routine
In order for employees to push boundaries and think outside of the box, they must be given the independence to pursue ideas they are passionate about. Facilitate innovation in the workplace and boost engagement levels by giving employees the time to think creatively.
Set aside specific innovation hours each day or week, host a hackathon session or designate company-wide innovation days set aside for working on projects and testing out new ideas. By giving employees permission to step away from the rigidity of daily work, you're empowering them to feel more comfortable dedicating time to side projects or meeting with coworkers to develop a new idea.
4) Encourage Collaboration
Teams that work collaboratively and have flexible spaces and tools to experiment are 32 percent more successful than teams that don't. Fostering a collaborative culture helps to motivate and engage employees. Organize a brainstorming or lunch-and-learn session where employees can freely present their ideas, offer personal insight and receive feedback from coworkers.
Remember, it can take hundreds of ideas to find a single viable solution, so if an idea doesn't work out, don't punish or discourage employees; instead, help them learn from their failures and share their experience with others.
5) Start by Solving Problems
Even with the right mindset, environment and culture for innovation development, actually coming up with a problem to solve creatively can be tough, especially for employees who are new to the concept. Remaining open and candid with employees is a valuable employee engagement strategy that can also lead to creative thinking. Encourage company leaders to talk with employees about upcoming major decisions, internal and external problems the company is dealing with and concerns for the future. Then invite employees to ask questions and suggest solutions.
Employees can provide a valuable inside perspective on ways to improve internal processes, streamline workflows or automate repetitive tasks. Take employee ideas seriously, turn promising ones into active projects and keep the larger workforce updated on progress.
A workplace centered on innovation incorporates many essential elements of a smart employee engagement strategy: innovation can provide employees with opportunities for growth, new learning experiences, team collaboration and constructive feedback from coworkers and managers. When employees are inspired by company leaders to think creatively, have the confidence and internal resources to pursue their ideas and aren't afraid to fail, they will begin to approach problems through an innovative lens, develop new skills and become more engaged in their work.
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