9 Indicators of innovation in today’s workforce

It’s been proven that industry leaders who invest in new technology and innovation achieve better productivity and return on investment. However, for this to be true, an organisation needs to be ready for innovation, not only technically but also culturally.

“When most of us hear the word innovation, we tend to think about technology and invention; seldom do we think about what kinds of behaviours are necessary for nurturing innovation within an organisation,” explains Lyndy van den Barselaar, managing director at ManpowerGroup South Africa.

As innovation can no longer be denied as a key driver for success in today’s society, ManpowerGroup looks at nine indicators to determine a company’s cultural readiness for innovation, and provide a roadmap for identifying which behaviours should be nurtured in this regard.

1. Experimentation

Leaders should encourage employees to practice, succeed, fall and then experiment again. “When it comes to adopting new technologies or ways of working there needs to be an experimentation phase,” says van den Barselaar. “Let employees know it is okay to fail or not to know everything in the beginning, and encourage a culture of excitement, experimentation and learning. Not only will this foster success, it could be positive for team building too.”

2. Trust

Employees must trust that their leaders can drive organisational success and enable innovation efforts. “The trust between leaders and their teams becomes even more important when it comes to implementing and nurturing innovation. Leaders should be looking at ways to increase and foster trust with their teams at this crucial time for the business,” says van den Barselaar.

3. Collectiveness

This is the time to set aside individual interests and truly collaborate to achieve desired outcomes. “Working together as a team becomes especially important when looking to implement and nurture innovation within an organisation – each member of the team needs to be focusing on and working toward the end goals,” says van den Barselaar.

4. Grit

Implementing and nurturing innovation, like most business processes, will not be without difficulties. Leaders need to focus on maintaining a blend of strength, determination and passion to overcome inevitable difficulties.

5. Diversity

Diversity in the workplace promotes acceptance, respect, and teamwork despite differences such as race, age, gender, native language, political beliefs, religion, sexual orientation, or communication styles among employees. “Having a diverse workforce is positive for increasing creativity, skills sets and even productivity within the organisation,” explains van den Barselaar.

Leaders who are looking to nurture innovation should embrace and prioritise diversity from age and gender to ethnicity, work experience and business perspectives, in order to have the best chance of success.

6. Persistence

Leaders should focus on being tenacious, steadfast and entrepreneurial to keep the benefits of innovation in focus – during both the highs and the lows.

7. Communication

“Communication is key to a successful organisation – no matter what industry or sector we are looking at. During times when the organisation is looking to implement new processes and nurture something like innovation, the importance of communication becomes amplified,” says van den Barselaar.

Leaders should practice and model active listening, share ideas and understand opposing viewpoints.

8. Curiosity

“Curiosity is key to growth in the workplace,” says van den Barselaar. Leaders should embrace curiosity to flourish by often mixing roles, skill sets and work teams. Encourage employees to investigate new ideas, roles, skills, technologies and methods.

9. Learnability

Learnability is defined as the desire and ability to quickly grow and adapt one's skill set to remain employable throughout their working life. “As the lifespan of skills becomes shorter, learnability becomes more and more crucial for success in today’s workplace,” explains van den Barselaar.

Leaders and their teams should be dedicated to continual learning, in order to stay relevant and adapt their skill sets as circumstances change.

“As the landscape continues to evolve, organisations need to focus on being agile, attractive and innovative at all levels. Creating, implementing and nurturing a culture of innovation has become more crucial than ever and organisations need to ensure they are focusing on this strategically,” concludes van den Barselaar.

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