Employers and business owners don’t just want innovation—they need it. A workplace has to be innovative as do each of the people who work there to remain competitive. The business environment is one that’s fast-paced and rapidly evolving, and innovation is the only way to keep pace.
However, while innovation may be something for your striving for, actually keeping your employees engaged and motivated in a way that promotes innovation can be a different story. There are certain incentive solutions you can utilize and other creative ways to boost employee innovation.
The following are some things to encourage innovation in the workplace, primarily through how you manage and lead employees.
Make Employees Part of the Bigger Picture
Employees need to have a reason to care about the business. Facilitate this by letting them know what your larger objectives and strategies are. Show them what your long-term objectives are and how they can fit into these.
Employees want to feel like they’re included in something bigger than them, and they want to feel like they’re going to be integral and play a role in something important in the business.
Promoting this among employees will foster innovation by encouraging them to think outside of the box to meet certain goals within the larger business objectives.
As part of a bigger picture of innovation, you want to create a culture where creative thinking and problem-solving thrive. Key elements of a culture of innovation include honesty, transparency and openness. Everyone should feel comfortable sharing ideas and doing so without fear of retribution or unnecessary criticism.
Eliminate Bureaucracy and Red Tape
Bureaucracy and red tape are two of the biggest innovation killers there are. You want your employees to feel like they’re free to innovate. If they have a great idea or they come up with a problem-solving strategy, but they know they’re going to have to jump through hoops to get it up and going, it’s going to be discouraging.
Additionally, along with eliminating bureaucracy and red tape as much as possible, make your company leaders accessible.
If your employees have ideas to share, but there’s no one to listen, it’s another way you’re discouraging innovation, even inadvertently.
A lot of business owners and leaders put out there that employee feedback isn’t welcome, perhaps without even realizing it. For example, they might keep their doors closed, and tend to speak more than they listen during meetings.
Reward Innovation That Increases Revenue
If an employee has a good idea and it ultimately leads to increased revenue, give them a part of that revenue.
For example, if an employee thinks of a new way to approach the sales process and then sales increase, give employees a portion of the increased sales.
That shows that a business you put your money where your mouth is in terms of innovation and rewarding it.
Let Employees Know Where You’d Like to Make Changes
Innovation is a very broad term within an organization, and it’s one that can lack meaning unless you give it meaning.
As a business owner or leader if there are specific areas you’d like to see more innovation or places where you think changes could be made, let employees know. Guide them toward the areas where innovation would be most valuable.
As part of setting it up so that employees know where to be innovative, develop workplace practices that lend themselves to innovation.
One way to do this is by cross-training employees so they’re familiar with other areas of the business. You can also have employees work in different departments and share their feedback on how things could be done differently or more effectively in those departments.
If you have employees willing to take positive risks, then recognize them. Too often people aren’t innovative at work because they’re fearful of the response. Show people who are willing to do things in a new and innovative way in a positive light, encouraging others to do the same.
With the idea of positively recognizing risk-taking comes the concept that you shouldn’t punish mistakes at work. Of course, this doesn’t mean mistakes that stem from carelessness or sloppiness, but mistakes that come as part of trying something new, being a risk-taker and being an innovator shouldn’t be punished.
Finally, be careful about competition. Competition in the workplace can be good, but it can also diminish innovation. A collaborative work environment can be more conducive to innovation in some cases.