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How To Drive Innovation In The Workplace

by Chad Smith on November 6, 2019

In this era of constant change, the ability to drive innovation in the workplace is the mark of a successful leader.

Workplace innovation is more than just a buzzword—it’s a key competitive advantage in the struggle to entice new clients, attract top talent and ensure longevity.

Here are four practical ways to promote innovation in the workplace.

4 Ways to Lead Innovation In The Workplace

1. Prioritize the Workplace Experience

The workplace experience is a combination of the objective, physical aspects of the workplace and the subjective, emotional elements of the workplace. It is the physical office, the general atmosphere that exists within that office and how employees interact with their workplace. The workplace experience is also one of the highest priorities of an innovative workplace leader.

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Creating an exceptional and innovative workplace experience starts with developing a formal user experience (UX) strategy. A UX strategy requires understanding every facet of an employee’s interaction with the workplace. Workplace innovators should identify the specific environment, technology and processes that support every employee’s ability to be productive and happy and then build this environment, implement this technology and introduce these processes.

Most importantly, workplace innovators are constantly on the lookout for ways to improve the workplace experience and mold it to meet the ever-changing needs of the workforce.

2. Focus on the Right ROI

Average workplace leaders attempt to juggle many different priorities. Leaders that want to create innovation in the workplace should identify a few initiatives that will have the greatest impact and focus on those.

Consider JLL’s 3-30-300 rule. The rule states that for every square foot of space your company owns or leases, you will spend, on average, $3 on utilities, $30 for rent and $300 on payroll each year.

Workplace innovators know that focusing solely on optimizing the first two variables in that equation can actually end up costing the company more in the long run. They recognize that reducing real estate without considering how it affects the workplace experience is a huge mistake. More specifically, they appreciate that even minor changes in employee productivity can have a huge impact on the company’s bottom line.

3. Embrace Agility

An agile culture is one that abides by the five principles outlined by Gartner:

  1. People over processes: Giving employees the freedom to tackle tasks in the way that best supports their productivity.
  2. Dynamics over documents: Using documentation as a guidepost instead of gospel.
  3. Collaboration over cascading: Prioritizing sharing information and ideas at all levels of the organization.
  4. Adaptive over-prescription: Focusing less on why something can’t be achieved and more on discovering how to overcome obstacles
  5. Leadership over management: Forgoing micromanagement in favor of providing general direction and support.

Workplace innovators advocate for agility because it empowers employees to reach their full potential. By encouraging employees to be autonomous and helping cultivate their abilities to adapt, employers are showing the workforce they trust them to be creative and identify new solutions. As a result, employees become more invested in the organization and, in turn, stay with the company for longer.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal.” This quote, often attributed to Winston Churchill, is the mantra of every workplace innovator.

The best leaders know that innovation in the workplace requires a willingness to take intelligent risks and inspire the workforce to do the same. They realize that a fear of failure hinders workplace innovation and if they try to avoid failure at all costs, they’ll constantly be getting in their own way.

Workplace innovators also know that the faster they fail, the faster they can succeed and by experimenting and seeing what doesn’t work, they can gain a better understanding of the problem. In addition, according to writer and consultant Adi Gaskell, leaders who hope to create innovation in the workplace know that “never believing you know everything or you've got everything figured out.”

Workplace innovators are constantly on the lookout for new and better ways to achieve their objectives. They are committed to continuous improvement because being innovative in the workplace means never settling. 

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Innovation In The Workplace Starts With You...But It’s A Team Effort

While it’s a leader’s job to inspire innovation in the workplace, bringing their vision to life requires collaboration at all levels. Whether you are the CEO, corporate real estate leader or facilities manager, you can initiate change. To achieve it, however, you’ll need to work closely with other department leaders.

Imagine you’ve been tasked with developing a new workplace strategy that will support your company’s projected growth over the next five years without substantially adding to your real estate costs.

Your employees have the option to work remotely and many do, but there’s no structure to their schedules. Some days, nearly every desk and meeting room is full, while on other days, the office is nearly empty. With plans to grow your workforce by 20%, you’ll need an innovative strategy to stay in your current office. You’ll need to work with leaders from the HR, FM and other departments to develop a plan that allows different teams to work remotely on rotating days. You’ll also need an effective communication strategy and the right technology to make it work—so you’ll need to enlist your marketing and IT leaders as well.

Innovation in the workplace always takes more time and patience when it happens by committee. But the end result is usually better for everyone.

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