It's one thing to create a culture of innovation, but how do you sustain it?
And they all lived happily ever after. The trouble is, successfully building a culture of innovation isn’t like a fairy story.
Sure there have been triumphs and disasters along the way; moments when the plot seemed to be leading you inexorably towards failure, or twists of fate which led you along unexpected pathways, but innovation is a story which keeps on evolving.
And so it should because culture change is not the same as project management. The may be acknowledged milestones along the way but changing the culture of any organisation is not simply a tick box process with a finite end.
Each success will lead on to further successes and as skills improve and people become more adept at agilely collaborating to create solutions, what once seemed impossible becomes well within reach.
So what steps do you need to take to ensure that your innovation story continues to deliver success? For a start, although building a culture of innovation can help you to create solutions, drive customer experiences, keep pace with digital transformations, and in the process boost profitability; at heart innovation is all about people. So when you’re looking for continuing innovation success, then you don’t let up on your people focus.
This is where HR and the leadership really come into their own. In the earlier articles within this series we have examined the importance of building engagement and skills across the organisation. The HR team can underpin this process by delivering systems and support structures which are geared towards innovation.
We looked at self managed engagement plans in the engaging in innovation article so let’s now look at a few other options which can help to drive innovation attitudes.
Pay and reward
When the innovation imperative moves people away from individual process-based roles and towards collaboration then the pay and reward structure should change accordingly.
There’s no point in penalising me for failing to create a hundred widgets in an allotted time if I have spent part of that period in working with the design team to come up with a process which will speed up widget delivery in the long term.
Pay and reward structures may need to move towards attributes such as attitude and teamwork
Similarly, awarding a bonus to one individual for the successful delivery of a project is not an equitable result if success has been as a result of multi-individual or multi-department collaboration.
So pay and reward structures may need to move away from process and towards attributes such as attitude and teamwork. This in turn may necessitate a redrafting of documents such as contracts and job descriptions to reflect the new imperative.
Employee expectations will also need to be managed as advancement moves away from a purely linear model.
When you’re looking to build employee skills, when your people are encouraged to develop a more holistic view of the organisation and when they are empowered to investigate and deliver results; in effect the entire organisation moves from silos into team working.
As a result,’ dead man’s shoes’ promotions disappear as do job titles which reflect rank. This in turn means promotion into being less a move up the ranks and more a reward for contribution towards the whole.
Process and workflow
No matter how innovative the organisation, there are going to be some basic expectations that you simply can’t get away from. These will include areas such as health and safety, equality and security.
But even here whilst the rules remain unchanged the approach may need to be amended. For example when everyone in the organisation is working on behalf of organisational success, security becomes less of a ‘do this’ instruction and more developing a personal awareness of the dangers.
Rewriting day-to-day documentation in a way which takes account of the innovation attitude can help to reinforce the message that the culture of innovation is expected to sit at the heart of every person, every process, every attitude and every decision.
Hiring for cultural fit
Your people have travelled along the culture change road but what happens when new employees join the organisation? In order to get your new recruit up to speed as quickly as possible your entire recruitment process from advertising and interview, to appointment and onto on boarding has to reflect your innovation culture.
When you hire for cultural fit you are seeking individuals who will add to the worth of the organisation
Of course it helps if your new recruit comes with an innovation mindset but whether they do or not should not affect your recruiting decision. And this is where we come to the idea of hiring for cultural fit. In some quarters this concept has come under fire, being seen as a way of taking on clones who will slot into the organisational framework without causing a ripple.
But true hiring for cultural fit is something else again. When you hire for cultural fit you are actively seeking individuals who will add to the worth of the organisation. This doesn’t mean necessarily that they come with lists of impressive qualifications but it does mean that their attitude, their background, their experience will help the organisation to move forward.
A diverse organisation is a strong organisation and the more that it can reflect the customer base and the wider constituency, the better it will be able to create real solutions which add value and drive profit.
Never underestimate the importance of celebrating success.
You’ve given your people the tools to do the job, you’ve empowered them and you’ve shown them that by working with each other and with outside bodies they can create something special. Along the way they have turned from being employees into intrapreneurs, taking ownership of success of the organisation.
By celebrating each success you not only reinforce the culture of innovation and engagement you also create the conditions which empower your people to do more, be more and deliver more.
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Formerly head of HR for Goldman Sachs France and Switzerland and with 16 years experience working in change management for various investment banks across the globe, Jo Geraghty brings a wealth of practitioner experience to change projects. She is co-author of the book “Building a Culture of Innovation” which was published by Kogan Page on 3rd...