“Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat.”
– Steve Jobs, Co-founder of Apple, Inc.
One of the greatest minds of the information age and pioneers of the digital era, Steve Jobs must have had a holistic view of the future as well as of the lightning-fast speed at which things will change – when he referred to innovation as the ability to see change as an opportunity. A true innovator, his legacy lives on through his company, and today, Apple, Inc. is organized for innovation.
But what was so special about Jobs’s idea of innovation that led to massive success? The answer is simple, yet one of the hardest things to implement. His idea of innovation revolved around people!
Why do you need workforce innovation?
The term workforce innovation has been making rounds in the business world for more than a decade. However, since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and amidst ongoing economic uncertainties, the idea has taken center stage and all the limelight as a driver of business success. Organizations have accelerated their efforts to transform their workforces with the view of optimizing costs and warding off the effects of high inflation.
There are numerous benefits of workforce innovation that many thought leaders have discussed over time. However, being in the global staffing business, we would like to highlight two prime benefits that it brings.
- Employee retention and hiring
We have heard this a million times and will keep hearing it in the upcoming months. Employee hiring and retention is one of the biggest concerns for organizations worldwide. However, aligning efforts to innovate the workforce can boost employee retention. Innovative workplaces are happier workplaces and contribute to high employee satisfaction. Innovative working approaches appeal to employees with higher creativity levels and lateral thinking, helping organizations retain their best talent and attract new ones. For instance, tech giant Google is a great example to understand this benefit. The company follows a staff-driven innovation that helps keep the employees engaged, happy, and motivated. It is one of the primary reasons for Google’s employee retention rate and scores.
- Better market positioning
Innovation helps you serve your customers better and improves your market positioning. Workforce innovation differentiates your organization from your market competitors. Organizations that invest time, effort, and resources in innovating their workforce and finding novel ways to serve them are more attractive to potential candidates. Moreover, workforce innovation can also increase your brand value and brand reputation. For instance, 3M’s unique 15% Culture is a perfect example of an innovation mindset in action. It encourages 3M employees to utilize a part of their work time to cultivate and pursue innovative ideas. The initiative made the company recognized as an innovation powerhouse and was later borrowed by tech giants like Google.
How to have the maximum impact?
While workforce innovation has many benefits, it is unfortunate that the term has allegedly become a cliché. For people nowadays, it is merely a buzzword overused to the extent that it doesn’t have a real meaning in most organizations – especially those that don’t value their employees as their most prized asset. People are the key to the success of any workforce innovation!
Here are some key things that every leader must keep in mind to ensure a successful workforce innovation initiative.
- Give freedom, space, and resources
Richard Branson once mentioned innovation happens when people are given the freedom to ask questions and the resources and power to find the answers.
Innovation comes when people think out of the box, unleash their creativity, and explore beyond their horizons. However, employers that micromanage and impose restrictions on employees often suffocate their creativity. Thus, provide employees with a sense of freedom to think with the necessary space and resources.
- Encourage experimentation and risk-taking
Innovation requires a commitment and willingness to experiment. Leaders must have the appetite to listen to new ideas, explore new ways of working, and taking these innovations to fruition. For instance, make innovation a core value in your organization and encourage your employees to take risks and share ideas. An employee’s contribution to the creative processes is the strength of an innovative organization.
- Be positive and open to change
Innovation and change go together. Workforce innovation requires a change of habits, transformation of culture, and a forward-looking mindset. Reluctance or resistance to change is the nemesis of creative thinking and innovative ideas. Thus, be optimistic and open to change. Welcome every idea with an equal amount of respect.
- Be innovative in every aspect
Leaders must showcase a knack for innovation in their attitudes and behaviors to bring workforce innovation into action. For instance, innovate the way you conduct your meetings and manage things. Instead of a regular conference meeting – try having a stand-up meeting to make interactions action-oriented. You can also consider adopting a non-hierarchical management approach to break down silos and barriers between work areas.
- Invest time, not only money
Workforce innovation needs money, but more importantly, it needs time. Leaders need to devote time to research and development (R&D) and building a holistic innovation strategy that complements an organization’s core values and vision. After all, who understands values and vision more than the leaders themselves? Rather than preaching the importance of creativity, invest time and effort in the creative nourishment of your employees. Host training sessions, organize brainstorming sessions, and lead by example.
- Hire diverse talent
Source diverse talent to bolster workforce innovation. People from different ethnic, gender, or cultural backgrounds bring distinct perspectives that can help an organization look at problems from a new angle. Diverse talent can offer discrete point-of-views and insights that can provide a new turn of things in the idea generation process. Diversity is the key to innovation today!
Workforce innovation is all about taking risks and enhancing the creative abilities of your most valued asset – your employees. It is about creating a safe space where employees feel confident to share ideas to solve problems. It is about acknowledging the contribution of your employees and empowering them to take a chance and fail.
Being in the global staffing business for more than 27 years and one of the largest IT staffing firms in the US, we have realized that workforce innovation is not static. It is an ongoing process that requires you to accept change for the greater good. There is no right time to innovate, but now!
Are you looking forward to innovating your workforce? Contact Pyramid Consulting today!