The modern day workplace and the importance of innovation

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In the 21st century companies must continually innovate their processes and products in order to stay competitive in the market. Traditionally business strategy has been to focus on maximising your employee’s utilisation, pushing them to get the job done as fast as possible.

In today’s business climate, this strategy is still used; however, businesses looking to grow and stand the test of time should be questioning whether traditional utilisation strategies are creating an environment that values and encourages innovation. To do so there should be a greater focus on creating the best workplace environment to attract, retain and encourage talented employees to create that innovation.

The bottom-line is a key performance indicator and therefore a consistent focus of many business, regardless of industry, but we need to create a greater correlation between profit generation and investment in innovation. One of the main components of profit is the cost of the process and how much the business makes by performing it. So a simple way to remain profitable is to reduce costs, but such methods do not necessarily promote innovation and, without that, a business can quickly become less relevant in a marketplace.

So how does a business become more innovative? This could be achieved by having a workplace environment that fosters the following components: challenging employees, providing freedom for employees to try new things, encouraging risk-taking and trusting employees to act in the best interests of the company. The decision to innovate must be backed by senior leadership and actions that create an environment in which employees are so comfortable with change and voicing their ideas that they initiate innovation.

The presence of automation has increased significantly in the workplace. This has allowed businesses who embrace automation to be able to focus their resources on driving innovation and providing value-add services and products to the market. Although automation has some negative connotations surrounding the increasing redundancy of employees for some tasks, if used wisely it can also create new jobs and significantly increase a business’ ability to innovate. Automation can allow considerable productivity gains for the economy which will in turn help to generate new work opportunities. With the introduction of more automated processes, businesses are looking into ways they can train and upskill employees to productively use the workforce to provide valuable and innovative services for the benefit of both the business and customers.

The modern employee desires greater responsibility within the business; they want to push themselves to perform better and to create an impact within their industry. Modern employees play an integral role in how a business performs in this forever changing world, with their appreciation for new technology and openness for growth.

We must consider how we use this next generation of employees to their full potential. The comparatively lower cost for new employees to the workforce makes it more likely they are allocated processing jobs and menial tasks, leaving business development to more experienced (and more costly) employees. However, customer needs are what drive innovation and enable businesses to know where to focus resources. On this basis, if the younger generation are bursting with new ideas and seeking to reimagine old ideas, then businesses should consider involving them in customer-facing roles to initiate conversations and opportunities with customers and develop their understanding of the industry.

However, the pressure to meet certain metric constraints does not encourage innovation, and instead, makes employees scared of failing. It is easy for a business to become focused on costs which instil boundaries that restrain employees from creative thinking. Businesses should make efforts to remove this red tape by considering stresses that create pressure on employees. If such pressures are stifling innovation, then the business needs to focus on what changes are necessary to help embrace the new way of thinking. To successfully implement this, Forbes suggests that “Innovation is communication”. The rare art of listening is often the best way to build a workplace which allows employees to freely share ideas and then collaborate to turn those ideas into reality.

Efficiency will always play a big role in the success of a business, but every employer should consider how they can balance productivity and creativity to reach the optimal level of innovation. Instead of focusing on how to ‘get the job done’, employers should consider ‘how to do the job better’.

The comments in this article of a general nature and should not be relied on for specific cases. Taxpayers should seek specific advice.

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