Opinion

6 secrets of using innovation to engage your employees

Back in 2012 we ran the first ever Best Employer, Eastern Region (BEER) survey, when employers around the East of England invited staff to tell them how they truly felt about working for them.

The result gave organisations of all sizes the opportunity to identify what needed to change to keep employees happy, and to create a more positive working environment. Why? Well, satisfied people means better business!

The survey, which has just launched for 2014, covers a range of key topics, but one which many employers can easily overlook is that of innovation. You’d be excused for thinking that innovation is solely relevant to hi-tech start-ups and trendy software companies! It’s actually an area of business that can be used by all types of organisations to engage their staff and boost the bottom line.

Let’s take Benefit Cosmetics and creative agency Spring: both picked up 2012 BEER awards. Their survey results revealed that staff were happy partly thanks to the firms’ use ofinnovation in their daily work. Although one is a global brand and the other is a Suffolk-based SME, both harness the creative talents of their staff and encourage original thinking.

So what role does innovation play in keeping workers engaged? Read on to discover what you can do to create a culture of innovation, and develop a workforce that is utterly dedicated to your vision!

1.    Make employees’ ideas count

Encouraging a culture of innovation means letting staff contribute ideas without the fear of being shot down. When people feel valued for their own small innovations, they are likely to feel closer to the organisation – especially when they see their ideas being put into practise.

2.    Create pride in doing something different

Whether you’re a local charity, a manufacturer or retailer, innovation can get you ahead of the competition. And people enjoy working somewhere that has a reputation in its industry and community for taking a bold approach. It gives them a sense of pride when talking about their work and when dealing with customers. And on that note…

3.    Innovation + happy customers = happy employees

Innovative thinking results in unique services or products, which attract customers who value your approach. It doesn’t need to be earth-shattering innovation, but coming up with unorthodox ways of solving customers’ problems can take you a long way. Not only that, but your employees can confidently go about their job knowing customers are going to love what they get. In turn, employees provide great customer service and the customers keep coming back. Spot the cycle?!

4.    Provide a platform for ideas

Not everyone wants to pitch their latest ideas in front of their colleagues. So it’s very important to provide a platform open to everyone who’d like to contribute, creating a culture of inclusion. Your directors could have an ‘open door’ policy, where the more reserved staff members, who prefer a one-to-one chats, can still be heard.

5.    Attract people who have the right talent

Developing a culture of innovation isn’t just about employing amazingly creative minds – you also need brilliant people who bring structure and practicality in order to make ideas reality. During the recruitment process promote your vision and be open about your expectations that employees will participate in shaping new ways of working.

6.    Don’t be afraid to break from tradition

Why not let your people work in different environments to trigger the creative process? Away days can do wonders for the generating new ideas since the usual barriers and office-based politics become less dominant. Choose somewhere unusual: punting, a stately home or a picnic perhaps? Giving staff the chance to work differently, or remotely, sends a message of trust - a building block of mutual commitment.

So, you see, you don’t need to be Google to engage employees through innovation! You may not have the HR or research and development budget of a dotcom giant, but by making your people an integral part of innovation, you’re giving them more reasons to join you and stay with you.