When most people think of the term “innovation,” they think of characters like Tesla’s Elon Musk or Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. The assumption is that innovation refers to disrupting or game-changing products and ideas that upturn society leading to fame, riches, or both. Innovation, though, can come in various sizes and is much more common than you may think.
An innovative work team can lead to amazing personal outcomes, certainly. But encouraging innovation in the workplace also drives success. It enables businesses and employees to rise to new challenges and thrive even in the most unexpected scenarios.
Implementing innovation on a small but regular basis at work will set your business apart from the competition in ways you may not expect. So, in this post, we’ll explore how innovation impacts businesses and how to cultivate an innovation-driven team that will make your business thrive.
Benefits of an Innovative Workplace
Innovation is one of the keys to success in many industries, especially those that evolve quickly, like the technology sector. Innovation pushed companies like SpaceX to develop reusable rockets, dramatically reducing the cost of sending payloads into outer space. Innovation also helped fintech companies develop AI-powered robo advisors that help thousands invest their money more profitably than by choosing GICs or other low-risk, low-return investments.
No matter what industry you work in, competition is likely fierce. If you want to ensure your business thrives and stands out, it’s vital to encourage innovation in the workplace. Below, I will outline some of the biggest benefits of an innovative workplace.
#1 – It Increases Your Brand Value and Awareness
If your business uses innovative practices, people will naturally notice and take an interest in what you’re doing. The more people talk about your business, the higher your brand value. This is why so many companies try their hardest to be unique among their competitors and create buzz about what they are working on and what they can offer, particularly if these achievements or offerings fall outside of what one might expect.
Showcase how this innovation results in lower costs, higher quality of product or service, greater online privacy or other unique benefits, and you’re certain to make an impression. When you make an impression like that, people will remember your brand the next time they need that kind of innovation in their own life.
#2 – It Helps Grow Customer Relations
One of the best ways that innovation can help your business is by strengthening the relationships you have with existing customers. Many leading organizations and businesses have entire R&D departments that work solely on innovation and research in their field. Part of this aims to figure out exactly what their customers need and want and how to deliver it.
One way that teams do this is by surveying customers online, over the phone, or in person to get the feedback they need to find ways to improve customer satisfaction. Using this insight helps businesses develop innovative changes to their product and service offerings, resulting in repeat business and a loyal customer base.
#3 – It Attracts Better Talent
The best talent you’ll find prefers a workplace where they are free to spread their wings and exhibit their creativity. Hosting an innovative workplace will attract the best and most creative thinkers in your field.
The greatest asset to any workplace is its employees. The better your employees are at what they do, the better your reputation will be in your industry. Organizations that don’t encourage creativity and innovation or challenge their employees often enough risk losing key staff members and experiencing high employee turnover. This results in a loss of knowledge, consistency, and expertise. It also increases hiring costs and adds other expenses related to training new employees and loss of productivity.
#4 – It Will Increase Worker Contributions
If you are not maintaining a strong staff and are not encouraging constant innovation, your business is probably wasting valuable time and resources reacting to problems rather than actively stopping them from occurring in the first place. This causes the staff you do have to ignore the current needs of their position to clean up messes that are already beyond their control. If your staff is always problem-solving, then they are not productively growing the business.
Innovative organizations streamline most, if not all, of their operations to increase production and avoid time-consuming catastrophes before they begin. This also helps to decrease downtime as employees are not stuck waiting on machinery to be fixed or problems to be solved before they can forge ahead on other projects. Passing these savings on to your customers is a win-win situation for both businesses and consumers.
#5 – Work Becomes Fun
A fun workplace is a happy workplace. Employees who report having fun at their job are less likely to call in sick, waste company time, or leave the company after only a short while. Fun work environments are also less likely to be plagued with workplace drama, arguments, or other negative experiences that can set productivity back and cause hostility between departments or peers.
Fun workplaces also encourage stronger bonds and relationships between co-workers, creating a better sense of family and unity. When everyone feels valued and cared about, they are more likely to work together toward common goals. In doing so, the company will experience natural growth and success that will stimulate growth and encourage further innovation and cooperation as the company adapts to a changing environment.
Implementing innovation in the workplace will help your business focus on long-term goals and face problems head-on instead of avoiding them. This will lead to a more productive workplace overall and will decrease the loss of time when it comes to the problem-solving efforts that occur when innovation is not a part of the greater picture.
Tips to Encourage Innovation in the Workplace
By now, you’re probably wondering how to foster an innovative workplace and reap the benefits we just saw. Fortunately, there are several easy ways that have proven successful in promoting innovation, which enables your team members to reach their own creative heights. By adhering to the following tips, you can significantly increase the odds that your employees will practice innovation regularly.
Tip #1: Keep it Fun
Nobody wants to come to work if they cannot enjoy themselves while they are there. Workplaces where employees feel undervalued, bored, or uncomfortable expressing themselves are more likely to see a higher turnover and an increased number of employees calling in sick. This sort of bad working environment is an innovation killer.
Additionally, employees who don’t feel like they enjoy their jobs are less likely to give their best effort, which means less productivity overall. This is why keeping things fun and fresh at work is a great way to boost innovation. There are many ways to make your coworking space more enjoyable, like regularly hosting fun events and contests that members can look forward to.
Tip #2: Encourage Collaboration
Encourage your employees to tackle projects as groups. This can mean teaming up with someone from their own department or even assembling a team of people with multiple departments represented.
Often, when multiple departments come together and communicate while working on a project, there are fewer hiccups in the process. With everyone at the same table contributing as equals, it’s easy to spot problems in scheduling, design, and other areas before they are finalized. This means that once a project is determined “ready” to move ahead, every set of hands it passes through will already have a decent idea of how to handle their step in the process.
Collaboration between departments and frequent group brainstorming sessions are also very effective ways to come up with different and more creative ideas on how to solve certain issues taking many different points of view into account.
Tip #3: Build Trust
Building trust with your employees is key. Most creative people who stifle their ideas do so out of fear of being criticized too harshly or failing to impress. When your employees know that you respect them and honor their creativity, they will be more likely to come to you with ideas or concerns they have about current business practices.
Similarly, handing off a large project to an employee is easier on both sides if you know they are someone you can trust to handle the project appropriately. They also will know that you believe in their power to succeed.
Tip #4: Set Clear Policies Against Workplace Bullying
Most workplaces have bosses. There’s almost no way to avoid that. You can, however, avoid the bureaucracy and sense of hierarchy that sometimes goes hand-in-hand with being a boss.
Hire department heads that you know will handle their employees with the respect they deserve. Refuse to give in to any sense that one department is more worthy of time, care, and respect than another, and make respect a part of your core values and policies.
Workplace policies against bullying are particularly important because many valuable and creative workers tend to be shy and be subject to harassment from other less-capable coworkers out of envy or simple spite. While you cannot control how your workers feel about each other, company policies can control how they behave when at work, giving the shy ones more room to breathe and be productive for your company.
People are more likely to feel confident in themselves when you don’t tolerate workplace bullying. With confidence comes innovation and the willingness to share.
Tip #5: Recognize and Reward
When someone on the team comes forward with an innovative idea that works, make sure you recognize them. You might choose to recognize them through promotion or a raise, or you might find that doing such isn’t within the budget. That’s okay. Even small tokens of recognition like a thank you note, a candy bar, or a gift card can impact your employees’ feelings and encourage them to be more innovative.
Also, ensure the team knows you’re rewarding someone for their innovative ideas. You might choose to congratulate them publicly in front of everyone else, write about it in the company newsletter, or send out an e-mail. By recognizing the innovation of a team member to their peers, you are not only letting that team member know they are valued. You are also letting other team members know their innovative ideas are welcome.
Tip #6: Nurture a Great Company Culture
Company culture is a major player in retaining staff and increasing happiness within the workplace. Simple and friendly competitions, weekly donuts, or a monthly company get-together are all great ideas to help encourage your employees to network and make friends with their coworkers.
When your employees feel comfortable around each other, they will be more apt to tackle problems together, ask for help and offer their advice to others, leading to innovative ideas based on shared information.
Tip #7: Don’t Rush Training
Take your time to train your staff well. When staff members are constantly playing catch-up with their peers, they likely won’t develop the confidence to come forward with innovative ideas. A captain can’t steer the ship without knowing the route and how all the controls work. Give your staff the tools they need, and sit back and watch them succeed.
Onboarding is essential to building and maintaining a strong and innovative team that’ll propel your business forward. It doesn’t matter if you’re running a remote crypto exchange based in India with a remote team in Pakistan or if you’re running a digital marketing agency with a local team of coworkers in New York. Everyone needs to be fully trained in all aspects of company goals, policies, and workflow, in addition to logical task-specific training.
Tip #8: Hire Diverse Staff
Particularly in smaller communities, there is often a tendency to hire people who are from the area, who attended college at a familiar school, or who are referenced personally by those already within the company. While these aren’t entirely bad business practices, it’s important to remember that true innovation is nurtured through a widened base of knowledge.
Hiring employees from diverse backgrounds allows you to implement new working knowledge of the industry into important conversations. It also allows for varied personal life experiences to come into play and unconventional points of view to drive off a standard way of thought.
Think about it this way: Let’s say your business deals in personal wellness. Initially, your all-male staff did a great job marketing the gym as a place for local athletes to stay in shape during the winter. They even managed to get a few local sporting goods stores to market your gym memberships to their customers.
Now, you’d like to start offering Lamaze and prenatal wellness memberships, as well. The all-male marketing staff is suddenly at a loss for how to attract business. Their brochures at the local clinics aren’t getting much interest. Wouldn’t having a mother in the conversation be helpful?
The Bottom Line
There are a number of great benefits to reap when you encourage innovation in the workplace. These benefits range from spiking growth in customer relations and increased productivity to happier employees and attracting better talent.
The issue most employers face in workplaces that lack innovation is that their employees do not feel safe or valued for their opinions. Encouraging innovation in the workplace means creating a work environment where creativity can thrive, and employees feel valued because of their opinions and contributions to the workflow.
If you can develop a system that encourages innovation, your business can thrive in its niche, setting it apart from your competition and gaining footing in your target market. Your employees will also be much happier, and productivity will blossom.
It is important to remember that innovation is not something that can be forced. Even people capable of creative innovation will only do so when they feel encouraged and supported. Hosting a fun, safe, and free space for your employees to think and express their concerns and ideas will be your best ticket to innovation going forward.