Transforming our workspaces to foster innovation

The idea of innovation has become the driver of a society constantly in search of change. Innovation is most often it is used to describe the application of creativity to improve already existing products, processes, technologies, et cetera, to meet new requirements. Modern markets have expanded rapidly, thanks to the forces of globalisation and technological advances. Consumer tastes have also expanded, leading to increased competition in almost every sector. In the quest to remain relevant and competitive, companies are increasingly seeking to increase their innovative capacity.

Many firms do this through the recruitment of talent, while others design workspaces that foster creativity. Both of these can be costly exercises. Recruiting the best talent is usually a matter of competing for people with a track record that goes right to the bottom line. Such persons tend to know their worth and will negotiate strongly to get exactly what they want. Putting in infrastructure that is designed foster creativity – the slides, bowls of fruit and Zen breaks – also requires capital output. However, other companies, which cannot make these types of investments can use different strategies to engender innovative workplace cultures which allow people to connect and create.

What ought to be borne in mind is that innovation requires us to be willing to turn our thinking inside out and upside down, letting go of the things we have grown to feel comfortable with. Even the normally conservative banking sector has been embracing new trends – witness in the last two years relaxing of dress codes in one of the USA’s oldest banks, Goldman Sachs citing that the “changing nature of workplaces generally in favour of a more casual environment.”

If companies want highly engaged employees, they must be willing to adjust their modus operandi for engaging with employees. For instance research has shown that the new-age employee places high value on non-monetary benefits such as a good work-life balance and feeling that they are valued within the organisation. Technology has been pushing the boundaries of what we thought we knew, and opening doors to new ways of interacting. Increasingly, workplaces are shifting to high flexibility, where the largest expenditure may be providing your employees with the technology to accommodate remote work.

Managers have an important role to play in creating the right type of work environment. Very often management considers profitability as exclusive of employee comfort and welfare. Ideas are routinely snuffed out with questions about profitability, proof that the idea will work and reminders that they still have to meet deliverables. Worse, if an idea is accepted but fails, it might become a tool to remind them to stay in their crease. Millennials will inherit the workplace domain. For them – the generation now in their teens and twenties – work is a different game. They are highly mobile, constantly looking for the best organisations that meet their individual needs for career advancement and personal growth. Meanwhile, the management function is also changing as managers are called upon to become more self-reliant and work ever more interactively with their teams. Leadership is, increasingly, becoming a requisite.

Indeed, the covid19 pandemic is forcing local businesses to take stock and seek out alternative ways of delivering on its commitments. In the effort to retain staff and clients, we are witnessing transformational changes, with retail outlets offering varied delivery options, training institutions moving to more online courses and many companies allowing employees to utilise remote work options. Perhaps when the curve of this pandemic has flattened, it may have provided the impetus for more businesses to embrace new ways to operate and foster innovation.

This is the new reality that progressive employers need to understand and embrace if they want to keep an engaged and motivated workforce – one that is free to connect, create and innovate.


"Transforming our workspaces to foster innovation"

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