Employee engagement typically has some very visible drivers — frequent recognition efforts, for example, open and honest communication and performance feedback have all been found to help augment engagement levels.
Other more nebulous factors — such as a company’s innovation efforts — may not immediately seem to have any influence on engagement or how workers view the organization. Employees, after all, may not directly see, participate in or even be aware of what moves their employer is making to stay ahead of the curve, even at some of the most innovative companies.
Yet most U.S. and Canadian workers believe their employers and IT teams should be doing more, according to a survey released earlier this year.
IT solutions provider Softchoice, who sponsored the research, found only 37 percent of employees view their companies as innovative.
Even fewer felt their organization did a good job with other leading innovation indicators, such as anticipating market trends, taking risks and investing in technology that enables innovative business ideas.
There’s little doubt innovation is a positive thing; a global PwC survey found it is a key driver of organic growth for all companies, regardless of their sector or location. Forty-three percent of the executives who participated identified it as a complete necessity for their organization.
Innovation’s effect on employee happiness and engagement is a less documented, yet still highly probable outcome. A strong sense of innovation can help set the tone for a company’s cultural atmosphere and, by proxy, motivate employees.
To see those results, however, companies need to identify where their innovation efforts may be failing — and find a way to correct the issue. A few aspects to consider:
Have a plan
PwC found the most innovative companies are concerned with not just developing a strategy for innovation, but developing the right strategy — one that, for example, ties in with desired business outcomes. Nearly 80 percent have a well-defined approach, compared to 47 percent of the least innovative organizations.
Be willing to falter
Just 20 percent of full-time workers say their business leaders are very open to taking risks, according to Softchoice’s research, and only 18 percent say they’re very comfortable with risking failure in pursuit of innovative business ideas. Failure, though, is often an inevitable part of attempting innovation — and a valuable learning experience. Less than a third of companies treat it that way, which is a shame.
Reassess your work environment
Architecture and design firm Gensler, in a 2016 survey, found a link between the functional design of a workplace and the level of innovation employees ascribe to their organization. According to its findings, the most innovative companies offer optimal workplace design — one that supports both individual and group work by providing private and collaborative areas that can be used at various times to support employees’ needs.
Ironically, while innovation can have a significant effect on employees’ outlook, research from McKinsey & Company found 94 percent of senior executives say people and corporate culture are the most important drivers of innovation.
As a result, it’s important to also focus on keeping those elements strong, instead of just pouring all your energy into innovation efforts and hoping it will increase employee engagement and satisfaction levels.
To do that, consider implementing some of the suggestions featured in our blog posts on finding candidates who fit in with your culture, who defines workplace culture, invigorating engagement through a sense of company pride and the three components your employee engagement program needs.