Category: Marketing and Brand Development
At a recent CEO panel discussion, the question was asked, "How important is innovation in your company, and what are you doing to train employees to be innovative?"
"In the automotive industry, quality control is critical - along with innovation," said one CEO.
"Our entire business is based on innovation," announced the bioscience CEO. "We are dead in the water without innovation," said the head of the technology firm. But all expressed bewilderment about how to teach creativity and innovation and how to encourage greater innovation across the organization.
It can be done! In most organizations, innovation has been discretionary - unless it is central to an R & D or marketing role. Today, however, our organizations need to set the expectation that innovation is welcome - yes, needed - throughout, so it must be woven into the culture from day one. You must not only teach innovation: you must also develop a culture that is a magnet for the creative people you need! Creative, innovative people who are nurtured are highly engaged and productive.
Your organization needs a strategy that not only develops your staff today but enables the hiring of innovation-gifted employees tomorrow. How can you develop the culture that creates a brand as an innovative place to work? Weave innovation into the fabric of your organization ten ways:
1. Website: When your home page opens, does it shout, "We may be a 60-year-old company, but we approach business with creativity that gets results?" If I am a job seeker, will I know how important innovation is in the organization? Do online job openings describe your culture? Is innovation listed as a core competency or skill set for all employees?
2. Reception area: Does your lobby say "energizing" or "tired?" Is there an Employee Wall of Fame that features winners of your Bright Ideas competition?
3. Hiring managers and HR staff: Are they enthusiastic about your organization, or are they just doing their jobs? Do they ask questions that require the job candidate share examples of recent big ideas?
4. Onboarding process for new hires: Does onboarding maximize the natural enthusiasm and openness of new hires to parlay their recent experiences and relationships into sales prospects, new vendors, ideas for dollars saved, and job candidates? Do you reward them for these things?
5. Reward and recognition system: Do you have an innovation competition? What is the prize? Lunch with the president? Upgraded technology? Updated business cards with "Innovator" added to the title line? If yes, watch employees line up with ideas! Create "innovator role models" by lifting up employees at every level of the organization who have bright ideas.
6. Training for all employees: Are strategic thinking, creativity or innovation courses among the offerings that all employees are expected to attend?
7. Leadership development: Are managers at all levels trained to inspire, motivate and build relationships, trust and skills, so that employees will go beyond their job description every day?
8. Weekly reports: Is the lead item your employees' reports their "best idea of the week"?
9. Performance management: Does every employee have an innovation goal for the year?
10. Leadership: Does everyone on your leadership team work innovation into presentations, newsletters, tweets, etc.?
Wishing for more innovation won't create an innovative culture or attract innovative hew hires. Actions will!
Nancy S. Ahlrichs, SPHR, CDE, is Strategic Account Manager for FlashPoint and author of Igniting Gen B and Gen V: New Rules of Engagement for Boomers, Veterans and Long-Termers on the Job.
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