It takes the right employee culture to be innovative and adopt new technology. Here’s why
As entrepreneurs, we often get caught up in discussions on topics such as innovation, not to mention the latest cutting edge technologies, but forget what it takes to integrate either into our businesses.
Being ‘innovative’ is a characteristic so oft-discussed that it’s virtually lost its relevance in a business context. CEOs talk about creating conditions for their people to collaborate, find new synergies, ideate, create. Enter your favourite bureaucratese buzz word here. It means almost nothing—except to the organizations that manage to get it right.
And rest assured, if your organization hasn’t mastered the art of innovation and leveraging new technology to glean a competitive advantage, now is the time to start taking notes.
Your future success will likely be defined by your embrace of burgeoning technology such as artificial intelligence and automation. That’s not to say that you’ll be replacing entire departments with software. But you will likely use some form of AI and machine learning to acquire predictive analytics and other data that could impact everything from product and service development to financial management and human resources strategies (think greater recruitment automation or data that helps predict seasonal hiring requirements, as just two examples).
The important point to bear in mind is that it’s not just the technology that matters, it’s the workplace culture you build that promotes the adoption, implementation and ongoing adaptation of that technology to address your operational needs and help you achieve your long-term business objectives. Without the right culture, adopting even the most transformative technology is destined to fail.
One reason: people are inherently resistant to change. Any new technology must be relatively easy to use, must offer almost immediate utility and has to deliver a tangible business benefit they can quantify. Otherwise, employees tend to revert to old habits and platforms to do their jobs.
So, what does it take to build a truly innovative culture?
Creating the conditions for real collaboration—and then encouraging the active sharing of ideas—is a start. That means welcoming all ideas, no matter how far off base, and ensuring that employees understand that their contributions are not only valued but are a required part of their job. It means providing real-time feedback, active coaching and recognition to help drive engagement.
The more motivated the employees, the more likely they are to help propel the organization’s growth and success.
Of course, that means breaking down silos and ensuring that various departments are not only working together, but aren’t engaging in an unfriendly competition to protect their own best interests.
And when it comes time to procure and implement new technology, key managers and employees need a seat at the table. Why? All too often we hear of executives that make a top-down decision to purchase and incorporate new technology such as software. But because these managers have little connection to the day-to-day running of the business, employees often find their new applications to be cumbersome, impractical and even inappropriate for the organization’s needs. Nothing fosters a revolt faster than forcing employees to use a system they can’t understand or don’t want to embrace.
Last point: building a culture of innovation is also critical to building a strong employer brand, best defined as the way the organization is perceived across the talent marketplace and by prospective employees. Small and medium-sized businesses that hope to attract top Millennial talent need to develop a meaningful value proposition that clearly articulates why they’re an employer of choice. Organizations also need to have the infrastructure in place to actively attract, recruit and retain top professionals. Frequent employee turnover is a sure fire way to kill morale, crush innovation and derail workplace engagement.
In that sense, innovation is more of a process than a single act. Progressive companies are those that take the concept and make it relevant to their business model. Going from empty buzz word to a defining characteristic of your culture is the real objective.
Laura Williams, Principal
Williams HR Law
As the founder and principal of Williams HR Law Professional Corporation and Williams HR Consulting Inc., Laura boasts more than two decades of experience providing strategic advice and legal representation to employers on a full range of labour and employment law matters. Her core areas of practice include pre-termination advice and strategy, labour relations, workplace safety and insurance, wrongful dismissal litigation, workplace investigations, human rights, disability management, workplace violence and harassment compliance, privacy compliance, employment standards, workplace policies, employment contracts, restrictive covenants and workplace culture recovery. http://www.williamshrlaw.com