Designing Innovation that’s Diverse, Engaged, Rewarding and Technological

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No two companies are alike.  Sure, similarities exist, but when it comes down to the details… companies are different entities with different wants and needs.  The strategy employed by any company seeking to develop an innovative workplace culture must be unique to their people; their workforce.

The most significant reason points to this fact:  a company’s workforce is diverse in its make-up.

Creating Innovation


Diversity of thought is absolutely the foundational element upon which an innovative culture is created,” Hall said.  “Finding value in varying thoughts, ideas, concepts and how those are all communicated, captured and acted upon…are all part of the diversity elements.”

What is diversity?  That’s a two pronged answer.  There is inherent diversity.  It involves traits a person is born with… gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation for instance.  Then there is acquired diversity.  These are traits gained from experience.  For instance, an employee who has worked abroad will be more inclined to appreciate cultural difference.

The Harvard Business Review conducted a study focused on two-dimensional diversity.  A person with 2-D diversity is said to have least three inherent and three acquired diversity traits.  In the study, companies with 2-D diversity out-innovated and out-performed those without it.  Those companies were 45% more likely to report growth over the previous year and 70% more likely to report capturing a new market.

RELATED:  To Innovate, Find a Friend not a leader

When it comes to diversity, companies first need to make sure any existing barriers to innovation are removed.

Frans Johansson is an innovation thought leader and author.  He is also the CEO of The Medici Group.  He says companies need to leverage those various insights and perspectives and breaking down those barriers is the only way to do that.

“It is how you think about teams.  It is how you think about compensation.  It’s salary organizations.  Who reports to who?  All of these elements that sort of fit into it,” Johansson said.

Fernando Sanchez-Arias, the Chief People Officer and Head of Learning, Diversity and Innovation for the Washington, D.C.-based think tank CLICK Institute goes a step further.

He said individuals have to accept, not tolerate difference because tolerance “is just a very basic level.  Acceptance is superior.”

“So, I accept you’re different.  I accept that it bothers me the way you speak,” Sanchez-Arias explained.  “But I know that nobody else is better than you at this specific task within the company.  So, that’s why I value in my team.”

It’s also about recruitment and hiring.  If HR professionals and companies are, for instance, looking for an employee with a real desire to work for the company, that in itself breaks down barriers.  Don’t just look for a person who wants a job.  Top talent and innovators will be called to work for a company because their talents align with the company’s mission.

Hall echoes that by saying the more diversity, the better the company.

“In an innovative culture, people find value in their differences and their similarities,” Hall said.  She said it will continue to be so as long as those differences and similarities are appreciated.

The Significance of Recognition

Recognizing innovation; simply pointing out a new creative idea or ideas will foster and promote innovation from other members of the workforce.

Take Parkland Health and Hospital’s rewards and recognition program.  Chief Experience Officer Vishal Bhalla says the program was created by employees for employees; in this case… the organization’s employee engagement task force.

Here’s how it works.

Bhalla described a scenario where an employee witnessed a fellow employee perform an act of kindness, say helping an elderly patient cross Parkland’s campus.  The witness would then, through a mobile app, submit a post praising the employee for his or her actions.  That post would be available not only for the employee to see, but also their department, their supervisor and anyone else “following” this person on the application, which also has a social media component.

“We’re instantly reinforcing positive behaviors that emulate our values in a very easy, simplistic manner,” Bhalla said.

That’s the employee-facing component of the technology.  On the back-end of the technology, Bhalla said Parkland can track the recognition for every employee.  From there, they will be able to reward employees in various ways based on the recognition received.

Want to know more?  Watch Bhalla’s webinar:  Cultivating a Culture-Based R&R Program through Technology

Technology in an Innovative Culture

Technology is also a critical piece of the formula.  The majority of the workforce is made up of Millennials, and will be for some time.  Technology is as important to this particular generation as water is to a fish.

Technology, however, transcends cross-generational concerns.

In an innovative workplace culture, technology is needed by all to work and collaborate… almost to the point the physical world in which the culture exists is almost virtual.  Internal, communicative technology like a company-specific Facebook for instance, allows for spontaneous ideation, collaboration, and alignment.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas uses such a technology.  The campus was experiencing an uptick in clutter.  In fact, it was being reported by guests regularly.  So, with the help of the company’s internal social technology, employees were able to share new ideas and techniques to keeping their campus free of clutter.

“Having technology available is the foundation, but it’s what you do with it that really enables you to setup your innovative work culture,” Schulke said.

He suggests using technology ambassadors.  These are individuals within a company who are technology-versatile and enable others to work more efficiently.

“It’s making sure people know how to utilize the technology, and that it seems seamless to them. They’re comfortable with it,” Schulke said.

Counting on Engagement

If diversity, rewards, and technology make up the foundation of an innovative workplace culture strategy, engagement is the glue that holds it together.

Putting it simply, innovation requires engagement from the people who make up the workforce.  This must exist at all levels.  Leaders, regardless of position, must create and maintain an environment conducive to innovation.  Merely giving the “keys to the galaxy” and expecting employs to unlock its secrets is not enough.

Leaders must first be open innovation themselves.  Human Resources professionals are often at the forefront when it comes to developing leaders into innovative leaders.  In some ways, HR professionals are designing those programs themselves.

Take DUSUP, a Middle East oil producer.  It has changed its leadership programs… taking the focus of content and putting it on development processes.  Through this, leaders take ownership of their own development by engaging in a six-month process.  They learn the principles of development and then practice those on themselves.  Only after they have experience developing themselves as innovative leaders, can they start coaching their team members on doing the same.

In conclusion

Employees must then be willing to offer new ideas.  And everyone, absolutely everyone, must be willing to accept failure and learn from that failure.

All of these facts hinge on this:  employees, again… regardless of position, must be called to engage in the culture, and that leads to innovation.  This does not mean a fellow co-worker asks another to ideate.  No.  The person feels compelled to ideate based on their desire to seek purpose.  Diversity, rewards, and technology are the pillars which support engagement and thus the innovative workplace culture.