Innovative Culture Challenges
When HR thinks about culture, a lot of different descriptors go through their heads. Much of those thoughts or descriptors are driven by the current employee climate. The desire for inclusivity, employee-focused and meaningful. Another thought centers on innovation.
Innovation in itself isn’t always an easy term to describe. It’s a subjective term and therein lies the difficulty. Not only in that, but also in changing mindsets.
“Any culture change is difficult to make. The culture is comprised of mindset and behaviors and we all know that before you can change a behavior, you have to first change the mindset,” explained Rhonda Hall. She is the Vice President of Human Resources and Organizational Development for University Federal Credit Union.
“Once the mindset is shifted, and people begin to talk using new language, ask different questions and make different decisions, then you are ready to change the behavior,” Hall said.
Changing the Mindset
To change behaviors, Hall says concrete, prescriptive expectations must be set. Overtime, those can be relaxed.
“As people begin to behave in more innovate ways, spontaneously collaborating, proactively thinking and speaking in future states, then the constructs that got them there can be removed or relaxed and the behaviors will stay,” explained Hall.
As with most things, a lot of work goes into the change, but a very small amount can derail it.
One way to do that is through poor “rewarding” practices. This, just like describing innovation, is subjective. It quickly becomes hard to manage. For instance, ignoring too creative of innovative ideas and rewarding only those that are actionable in the moment. Remember, in an innovative culture, innovative ideas are often focused on problems that haven’t yet been identified.
As HR professionals, it’s very easy to assume the ownership of the company’s culture falls to the department and everyone in it. That’s partly true. In reality, the entire company has to drive toward creating that innovative culture. In many ways, it’s a top down approach.
Leadership can drive innovation in that they create a culture where employees are allowed to create and aren’t afraid of failure. More on that in a moment. It can also be team-led in that teams can drive innovation and, through success, get leadership’s full support.
Experimenting with Innovation
One of the major components of creating an innovative workplace culture is experimentation. For some, especially those who deal with a company’s money and those in leadership, experimentation can be a fear-filled word. Why? The possibility of failure.
Leadership has to be ready and willing to accept not only failure, but the potential loss connected to it. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons; the rewards and the risk.
One thing is for certain, not creating an environment where the culture centers around innovation will always end in a loss of some sort whether that is loss of personnel, money, or a competitive lead/advantage.
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Where has experimentation been a success? Look no further than Google.
The tech giant uses several different channels to engage with employees and their experiments. One of those… the Google Cafés. These are designed to encourage interactions between employees.
Then there is Google Moderator, the company’s innovation management tool. Here’s how it works. When the company holds a tech talk or a company-wide meeting, anyone is allowed to ask a question. Employees can then vote up the questions they’d like answered. This allows for the discovery of current ideas, questions or suggestions. Google Moderator was created as one of the company’s 20 percent projects. Google allows their engineers to spend 20 percent of their work week on projects they are personally interested in. That allows the company benefits by being able to see and access their employees’ talents.
Experimentation can be tricky, but there are ways to avoid high risk. For instance, if you have several offices across the country, conduct an experiment at one office. If it’s successful, work out the kinks before rolling it out to all the offices. There is much less financial loss with that process versus conducting the experiment company-wide.
Remember, innovation isn’t easy in any form. It takes constant time and effort and it takes commitment. The rewards, however, are many and they are worth it. It goes without saying when it comes to creating an innovative culture, leave no stone unturned.
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