By: Allison Boccamazzo
Organizations today are challenged with competing in an age where once tried and true strategies no longer have the same lasting power. For example, long gone are the days where benefits or even pay satisfy top performing employees. Similarly, traditional advertising or even the quality of a product no longer influence customers’ key purchasing decisions. Today, we live in an age where organizational culture—specifically, a culture of innovation—is believed to be the last (and greatest) differentiator among enterprises.
In creating a culture of innovation, business leaders direct all behaviors, beliefs, values, actions and policies towards a commitment to continually create new value within their organization. Creating such a culture is advantageous for many reasons. For example, it enables organizations to:
· Satisfy next-generation customer needs: This cultural transformation allows organizations to become more attuned to and connected with their customers, enabling them to better anticipate and satisfy specific needs. This is a vital ability in today’s market where R&D processes are unfathomably long and costly, and product failure rates equally high. Valuable products are created for customers based on changing insights, habits and preferences; the same goes for processes and procedures created to enhance customer-facing interactions. This is ultimately what will create memorable experiences and convert first-time buyers into loyal brand advocates.
· Increase financial savings/return: Research shows a clear connection between financial performance and organizational culture. In fact, findings from Strategic Asset Management Inc. show that investments in such things as initial evaluations, behavioral coaching and information management exponentially increase production volume and, subsequently, decrease operational expenses (up to 20 percent). The renewed focus and understanding of an organization can translate into tangible savings.
· Onboard and retain top talent: It’s common knowledge that an organization’s top performers will hit a glass ceiling and leave unless they are engaged with to their highest potential. By creating a culture of innovation, leaders can make these prized individuals an integral part of their organization’s innovation movement. The end result is a healthy, symbiotic relationship; by harnessing these employees to their greatest value, they will in turn produce maximum value for their company.
The benefits of creating a culture of innovation are clear; however, doing so can be challenging. In fact, business leaders recently surveyed by Deloitte listed culture, engagement and employee retention as their greatest challenges for 2016. Below are three ways that business leaders can sidestep these challenges and successfully get started:
· Start from the top: First and foremost, innovation must be accepted and understood by the executive team. Too often, the C-suite demands innovation from its teams without truly knowing what that means or the implications it will have for the organization. For example, embracing innovation will require business leaders to make changes—be it a change in their mindset, behaviors or existing business model. Leaders must be willing to make any changes necessary and remain a pillar for all others in the organization.
· Create multidisciplinary innovation teams: By helping employees embrace innovation and ideas that are outside of their current paradigm or business model, organizations can work against departmental siloes and build lasting relationships. To this end, organizations should build multidisciplinary innovation teams that are dedicated to effectively leading all innovation efforts. These teams, which can consist of an organization’s top performers, can teach others new techniques and encourage new ways of thinking so that desired outcomes can be achieved.
· Financially invest: Nearly 70 percent of executives surveyed last year by advertising firm Gyro said they will make short-term financial sacrifices in order to cultivate long-term employee and customer relationships. This investment could be in the form of sending employees to various workshops and conferences, for example, or hosting special team luncheons. For Tony Hsieh, CEO of online retailer Zappos, this was in the form of offering new hires $2,000 to quit their jobs after one week in order to ensure employees truly loved their jobs and were committed to the organizational culture.