How to Create a Culture of Innovation From Day One
“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.”
These simple words, often attributed to a number of sources, are a reminder that, if we want to succeed and move forward, we have to do things differently.
But that’s easier said than done. Many companies struggle with innovation because the journey toward new ideas is often painstaking and wrought with failure. However, with the right strategies and processes, employers can support the sort of small innovations that will one day lead to fully functioning cultures of innovation.
Safety and Trust in Working Relationships
Innovation requires change and evolution. When work environments lack safe and trusting relationships between employees and their superiors, creativity and innovative thinking are stunted. It takes guts for employees to speak up about new ideas because, in doing so, they will unavoidably imply that the way things currently are isn’t good enough.
Leaders and managers should consider these tips if they want to nurture trusting relationships with employees:
1. Speak With Employees One on One
Taking the time to speak with employees privately gives managers the opportunity to open up more personal and intimate forms of dialogue. Encourage employees to share feedback in this private space, and they will learn they do not need to fear speaking up. Opening up this line of communication is vital to building trust.
2. Be Aware
Employees don’t always speak their minds, especially if they are frustrated. Having solid chemistry with someone means knowing how to pick up on their subtle hints. If managers can’t recognize the small signs of frustration, employees will feel that they aren’t understood.
3. Be Transparent
Managers should be open about their own mistakes with their teams. Being truthful shows humility and helps managers gain employees’ respect.
4. Mean What You Say
Nothing destroys trust like broken promises and empty compliments. Sincerity and follow-through will reinforce employees’ trust in their managers.
Trusting relationships lay the foundations for innovative workforces, which is why it’s valuable for trust to be instilled from day one.
Giving Employees the Time and Freedom to Think, Dream, and Inspire
One of the biggest struggles companies face when trying to cultivate innovative workforces is finding the time and inspiration for innovation to happen. Google fosters innovation by allowing its employees to spend 20 percent of their work time on projects that interest them. This initiative has brought forth hugely successful initiatives like Gmail and Google News.
IBM is also known for encouraging employees to be inventors and equips them with a team that helps them apply for and land patents. In 2014, the company set a world record by being the first organization to earn more than 7,000 patents in a single year.
Some small-scale types of freedom that can foster innovation include:
- Work-from-home programs
- Paid vacation policies
- Flexible work schedules
- The freedom for employees to choose which projects they work on
To get a better idea of which types of freedom are most valuable to their employees, employers should solicit employee feedback on the matter.
Engaging, Empowering, and Rewarding Employees
The first step in getting employees to think creatively is to get new hires engaged in what they do. Eighty-eight percent of employees don’t feel passionate about their work. It’s going to be difficult to inspire employees to think innovatively about work they’re not interested in. Managers should communicate with their employees regularly to find out how to engage them in their work. The solution could be as simple as reinforcing a collaborative team atmosphere.
Once employees are engaged, the next step is empowerment. Empowering new employees fortifies healthy relationships and encourages innovative thinking. Employers should encourage their people to think outside-of-the-box and speak their minds. By assigning projects that give employees the chance to utilize their strengths, managers can boost employees’ confidence and leverage their existing skills. Showing employees they are trusted to deliver without micromanagement is another way to empower them.
To reinforce engagement and empowerment, employers should reward those who make an effort to be creative, even if their ideas fail. Reward can be as simple as recognizing employees in front of their teammates or mentioning their work in the weekly staff email. Managers should also be sure to personally recognize employees for their work.
Fostering Innovation at Your Company
Innovation doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, it is messy, and it will undoubtedly result in failures every now and then. Employers have to be willing to take a chance on their people and not place blame on them when an idea falls flat. As Mark Zuckerberg puts it, “In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
Every company is different, and it’s up to employers how they want to foster innovation in their individual organizations. For some, the answer will be small improvements; for others, total overhauls may be necessary. Whatever the case, innovation strategies should be based on the needs and desires of employees.
Employers should cultivate elements of innovative culture from day one. Why wait to see the best your people have got to offer? With the help of the right onboarding system, employers can increase new hire productivity, which will allow new hires to feel more comfortable more quickly. When new hires are comfortable, they won’t hesitate to contribute new and innovative ideas.
A version of this article originally appeared on Click Boarding’s blog.
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