Creating Innovation: Ways to Address Your Company's Culture

Mason Stevenson
Posted: 01/04/2018

With Millennials at the forefront of today’s workforce, the employee experience is a must. A part of that: creating an innovative workplace culture. As such, it’s no surprise the issue has become a top priority for the members of the C-Suite.

There’s plenty of evidence available now to support this course of action.

  • Companies with great cultures are 29% more likely to have employees innovating and performing great work. (O.C. Tanner Institute, Talent Magnets)
  • Companies with great culture are 53% more likely to have highly engaged employees. (O.C. Tanner Institute, Talent Magnets)
  • A strong culture offers a competitive advantage
  • Great cultures = companies are 27% more likely to increase revenue and 25% more likely to see team growth (O.C. Tanner Institute, Talent Magnets)

Challenging Innovation

When taking on the concept of creating an innovative workplace culture, there are some challenges involved.

Rebecca Ahmed is the Director of HR Systems and Operations for Pinnacle Entertainment. She’s also an HR Exchange Network Advisory Board member. I discussed the topic with her, and from that conversation I picked up some of the challenges that need to be addressed.

  • Getting company buy-in
  • Recognizing and rewarding innovation
  • Personalizing the culture

Ownership of Culture

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.

general office shot of people working

Ahmed says there are really two ways to handle this.

“I've seen it, really more the leadership drives innovation and they start with saying, ‘This is… we are looking to foster an environment and a culture that you're innovative and that you're not afraid to take risks, because if you're not afraid to try different things,” Ahmed said. “And that's really succeeded and team members are like, ‘Awesome and I'll start creating different groups or throwing, you know, I would say everything but the kitchen sink at different ideas.’

Then there is the flip side of the coin.

“I've seen it where it's really team member driven and team members have said, ‘We want to try this out what are your thoughts on this?’ And then, because they are really calling for a culture of innovation, leadership has gotten on board,” Ahmed said.

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 weight 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.

“When you know that you can make a mistake in your job, if you're going to be creative or try something different and you know leadership will be okay with that… you're going to naturally try to think creatively; think a little differently,” Ahmed said.

Experimentation can be tricky, but there are ways to avoid high risk. For instance, if you have several properties Ahmed suggests conducting an experiment at one property. If it’s successful, work out the kinks before rolling it out to all the properties. There is much less financial loss with that process versus conducting the experiment company-wide.

Recognizing innovation is also rewarding in itself. Simply pointing out a new creative idea will foster and promote innovation from other members of the workforce.

Ahmed described her time at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Patrons of the property expressed their love for The Cosmopolitan through a survey conducted by the owners. However, they also indicated the property seemed unkempt from time to time. So, owners decided to get employees involved. Rather than simply hire new employees to take care of the issue, owners asked employees to come up with ways of combating the litter problem.

The result: an employee-created video campaign.

Hands on top of one another team work

In the first one, a banquet server danced to a song while cleaning up a spill. In a second video, an employee… seemingly describing an attractive individual was revealed to have been describing a glass that needed to be picked up.

The videos were shared through an intra-company social media platform and celebrated by everyone. Again, recognizing innovation will foster and promote innovation from other members of the workforce.

Personalizing Culture and Innovation

First, an anecdote. When you walk into a department store looking for a new wardrobe, are you looking for something that’s one-size-fits-all or something that seems personalized to your body? A safe bet would be the desire to have something that seemed personalized.

Creating an innovative workplace culture is much the same. It is not one-size-fits-all. It is custom to the company’s needs and the needs of its employees at all levels.

Part of that is the benefits offered.

Rather than offering plans one through five, consider offering al a carte options. This allows employees to plan and pick programs based on those life plans.

According to Ahmed, “It's all about who are you what are you looking for in your life.”

The theory also extends to compensation.

“It's going to be about personalization,” Ahmed said. “You're going to understand your own compensation. You're going to understand why you're compensated that way, and it should be mobile on your phone and you can see it at anytime and really get a snapshot of what you’re your total comp looks like.”

Ahmed pointed to a significant note on compensation. As a whole, compensation hasn’t reached this level just yet. The technology is needed is still being developed. Some is already available, but not to the point it is being implemented just yet.

Generational Concerns

As with any concept, HR professionals and companies must consider generational aspects.

While not every generation isn’t keen on the changes happening, the reality is everyone has buy-in… from Baby Boomers to Generation Z. And it’s cumulative.

“I think every generation that's going to be up and coming is always going to be considered more innovative than the last one because it's newer technology; it's just changed,” Ahmed said. “So, what was conveyed in the 70s was no longer innovative in the 80s because, obviously, those who were in the younger generation then, in the 80s, were creating change and being the innovator. Millennials are considered, right now, the innovators. That's because we're the youngest generation.”

There is a difference, however.

Ahmed said we, as a growing culture, are moving much faster than ever before. With all the technology that’s available, people can lose attention very quickly. And it’s in that moment, innovation can change and pass you by.

“It’s constant change and the concept of being able to adapt quickly and being flexible is being pushed more and more,” Ahmed explained.

Rebecca Ahmed is the Director of HR Systems and Operations for Pinnacle Entertainment, and is a HR Exchange Network Advisory Board member.

Mason Stevenson
Posted: 01/04/2018

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