The Responsibility To Create An Innovative Culture Lies With Employers

Written by Allan Steinmetz, Inward Strategic Consulting.

Internal CommunicationsCaptured before the start of the session ‘The G-8 and Africa: Rhetoric or Action?’ at the Annual Meeting 2005 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 27, 2005. Copyright by World Economic Forum swiss-image.ch/Photo by Remy Steinegger

We recently came across an impactful study conducted by BMC, which was shared at last month’s Davos World Economic Forum: http://bit.ly/2iBDIHc.  The theme for the annual meeting in Davos was Responsive and Responsible Leadership, as “traditional industries are being redefined and new ones are being created from scratch.” Advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, self-driving vehicles, and new payment technologies are forcing businesses, governments and individuals to examine how people work and the skills required of labor forces to meet the demands and needs of digital industry.

The BMC study of over 3,200 office workers in 12 countries worldwide suggests that many workers are excited by the potential for technology to enhance their work lives and create new career opportunities, but an average of 40 percent fear that they won’t be able to keep up with the rate of change required by digital business. Of those surveyed, 88 percent place the responsibility to create innovative cultures on their employers.

Employees feel that the responsibility to create an innovative culture lies with employers, who must be responsive leaders and encourage change.

Globally, office workers strongly believe that employers must create an innovative culture to retain staff and enable workers to be successful with increasingly digital roles and responsibilities. However, the level of encouragement employees believe they are currently receiving to drive change in the workplace varies greatly. Only 64 percent of respondents in the U.S. saying they feel empowered by their company culture to lead innovation, whereas 90 percent of employees in Mexico feel their workplaces encourage them to drive change.

The study also highlights that the frequency with which management seeks ideas for change and how much employees feel listened to also influences how encouraged or empowered they are to drive change in their roles. 57 percent of U.S. workers feel that leadership in their organizations only provide the opportunity to suggest changes during performance reviews, while Europeans (39 percent) instead are asked to provide more feedback via surveys. U.S. and U.K. workers feel among the least empowered to drive change (64 percent and 47 percent, respectively) in their roles.

The substantial risk is that businesses that do not proactively enable their employees with the skills necessary for digital industry, or develop new, continuous methods for engaging employees to suggest and drive change, are likely to face extinction.

So what is the takeaway? What can we learn from the study?

  • Employees are demanding innovative cultures and a dynamic environment of innovation and change to new disruptive technologies and digital environments. Leaders must oblige and find dollars and resources internally to make this trend a reality
  • The responsibility is clearly on management. Creating an environment is not the responsibility of the employees. Leadership must be open, cajoling, helpful and encouraging, while finding ways to implement recommendations and suggestions from employees, so their desires become a reality
  • Assessment and feedback by leaders from their employees must be constant. It cannot be an annual event, but rather, a dialogue that is constant and enabling that happens every month or ten days
  • HR should take a leadership role at directing this new trend in corporations. They must relinquish their typical role of benefits, compensation and talent management and start thinking strategically to enable purposeful and innovative cultures that impact business outcomes and customer experiences. Many HR professionals have taken this new responsibility, but more in our opinion, have not
  • Lastly, companies should look at themselves with an outsiders’ view as BMC has done to monitor shifts in direction, new trends and competitive benchmarks to understand how they need to make changes quickly with the help of professionals and employee/customer insights with the help of companies like Inward

Inward Strategic Consulting has always been a strong advocate of disruptive employee innovation and cultures.

This article was published on the Inward Strategic Consulting blog on February 23, 2017.

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