How to foster an innovation-focused company culture
There are two simultaneous trends dominating in the digital industry today:
- The fast pace of innovation which is dictating the state of the market;
- And an emphasis on employee-focused company culture and values.
If we take both into account, a sure-fire recipe for success is cultivating a healthy company culture which promotes and prioritizes innovation. In this article, we’d like to take you through the essential elements and considerations of such a company culture.
Psychological safety (which is defined as “feeling at ease with the people you work with” to the point where you’re comfortable enough to exchange ideas) is crucial for healthy collaboration, especially for diverse cross-departmental teams.
In fact, a number of your employees may be more reserved about speaking up in psychologically unsafe environments and situations, which would make them hesitant about sharing their ideas and potentially lead to invaluable input missing.
Well defined mission, vision and values
Besides psychological safety, an essential element of an innovation-focused culture for employees is the sense of purpose, which is derived from a well-defined mission, vision and core values.
Having a sense of purpose will motivate employees to be more driven and innovative, especially if they align strongly with the cause they’re contributing to and/or with your company’s values.
You can’t expect your company to be able to innovate if your teams and/or departments are completely disconnected from each other and work with siloed data and processes.
True modern-day innovation requires having a finger on the pulse of the multifaceted aspects of the digital world. In order for this innovation to bear fruit, it’s essential that these different aspects – and hence the departments responsible for each respective one – work well together, which is by default prevented when they’re siloed.
Remote and hybrid working may pose additional challenges to de-siloing. But, then again, a healthy remote work culture can actually almost by its very nature prevent silos from arising, considering the tools, feedback loops and communication in general are taken care of and a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing is promoted.
Just like with silos, you can’t have a good exchange of ideas if you have poorly set up communication processes and channels; make sure these are properly implemented and streamlined. To facilitate innovation, focus particularly on conducting good brainstorming and ideation sessions.
Both synchronous and asynchronous communication are important, especially right now in the era of remote and hybrid work, with the workforces typically distributed across different workplaces (and in many cases also across different time zones).
Investment in learning and promotion of knowledge sharing
One of the best ways to innovate is to be open to new experiences and acquire new skills. Thus, a great way of promoting innovation is investing in learning and promoting knowledge sharing among your team/employees. Here you can check out what it looks like to have learning as a core company value.
Good HR / hiring processes
How and who you hire is also closely tied to your company culture – meaning you need well defined HR processes to tap into the existing talent pool and find the best people for your company.
One of the main considerations here is this: focus more on culture fit rather than on skills. New skills can always be taught (especially if you invest in a learning-focused culture as we just recommended), personality much less so.
The worst case scenario is that hiring people who are a poor culture fit ends up negatively impacting the culture itself, which is probably the last thing you’d want to happen.
Healthy attitude towards management
Your attitude towards management will also be super important in how you’re able to encourage innovation. If you have employees who have proved themselves as capable and committed, promote for the managerial role rather than hire someone completely new, and make the role desirable in itself rather than just due to the pay raise.
Make sure to provide clear career advancement opportunities for employees who want to progress but don’t feel comfortable in managerial roles. This way you’ll end up with more qualified and committed managers on the one hand, and with more proficient specialized professionals on the other, since each will be motivated in their own way.
Since innovation is today primarily driven in terms of technology, good technological capabilities and interest in latest technological developments are key elements of an innovation-focused culture, as they allow for both exploration and implementation.
Exploration of new trends and technologies promotes innovation and facilitates an eventual implementation, while employees also get more satisfaction out of working with these new tools if they were previously able to discover their features on their own.
Assuming you’ll have invested in learning, and with technological proficiency being one of the top attributes for succeeding in the future of work, your learning programmes and activities should take this into account as well as focus on streamlining technology proficiency in the ways that best spur innovation for your business.
An employee-focused company culture which promotes innovation is one of the best approaches to thriving in the current hyper-competitive landscape – even more so since a lot of the elements of such a culture should just naturally be included to enable a good employee experience and help attract and retain talent.
We hope the tips from this article will help you to bake innovation right into the core of your business and better position your business as a leader in the digital transformation age.