Innovation should be the part of DNA

Consequences

Innovation should be the part of DNA

For every organisation to succeed there are certain foundational prerequisites. The ability to innovate (in order to stay ahead or atleast at par with competition) and significantly contain employee attrition are two such prerequisites.

Though at the surface, innovation and the ability to retain employees might seem to be two completely different concerns a deeper analysis reveals that an underlying thread irrefutably binds them together. Organisations that genuinely inspire innovation are invariably those that welcome ideas from every employee irrespective of his/her role and seniority. This approach automatically translates to an environment where employees feel valued as active stakeholders in terms of the overall organisational growth and vision.

Needless to say employees are bound to stay much longer in organisations that encourage a democratic approach in terms of decision making as against those that do not believe in a consultative approach.
      
The quest for the most innovative and functional ideas in every sphere of the organization divests the onus of decision making from the higher echelons of management. Consequently when the average employee becomes an active and discerning participant to the decision making process organisations stand to gain a lot.

This is because today’s average employee is young, suitably well informed and unconventional in his/her thinking and hence can resonate the pulse of the market to which the organisation caters to sometimes much better than even seasoned managers.

After all, real value gets created in the interface of customers and employee and it is often the junior most or front end employees who drive this ‘real value’ as they are closest to the customer and in sync with ground realities.

Another characteristic attribute of today’s average cadre of employees is that they view their places of work as extensions of their individual beliefs and value systems. Hence they are enthusiastic about engaging in and taking ownership of activities that are outside the straitjacketed confines of work.

Taking cues from this popular psyche many companies are encouraging individual employees to come forward and institute platforms that exude their personal convictions and try to align the same with the larger organisational objectives.

The leadership and HR departments merely facilitate or enable the formalisation of such platforms- ownership is invested in the employee owning the idea. Such platforms are proving to be a huge success in terms of evoking mass participation from employees across the breadth and width of the organisation.

At a parallel vein inverting the pyramid of decision making also conjures an environment of entrepreneurship within the organisation. Because contrary to perceived norms, today it is possible to unleash the spirit of entrepreneurship even within organisations.

For this to happen the work environment and organisational culture has to be conducive towards accepting and nurturing innovative ideas rooted in value creation. These ideas might be business critical, technical or purely general depending on the nature of the organisation. In order to sustain value creation it is necessary to have mechanisms for innovation and entrepreneurship, which are recognised and rewarded in the organisation.

Also in order to develop entrepreneurs or ‘intrapreneurs’ (employee cum entrepreneur) every employee should be in a position to discuss his/her desire to face fresh challenges with the concerned reporting managers and leadership teams.

All possible options within the team and employee’s purview should be deliberated with complete transparency. This experience shall further reinforce an employee’s trust in the organisation and its policies. Consequently he or she shall be assured in terms of support and recognition for ideas and thus feel empowered to start fresh ventures like a new service line for the business vertical that he/she is currently engaged in.

These ideas can over a period of time grow into focused multiple projects and for this to happen the guidance and intervention of the senior management is critical.

Needless to say ensuring democracy at the workplace is one of the strongest measures through which organisations can empower employees. Apart from translating to a heightened sense of self worth for the employee, it also fosters a greater sense of ownership and belonging at the workplace.

It makes employees irrespective of their seniority (both in terms of actual work years and years spent in the organisation) feel valued in terms of the decision making process. By ensuring democracy at the workplace, organisations can build a workforce that is capable of preceding every action with critical thought and careful analysis.

In other words it shall not be an exaggeration to say that ‘democracy at the workplace’ is that ubiquitous threshold on which a workforce that can spearhead our knowledge economy can grow.

(The writer is corporate vice president and global HR head, HCL Technologies)

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