Tonje Elisabeth writes about the importance of engagement and innovation. She describes 5 dimensions of innovation in the workplace.

Good workplaces

The philosopher Theodore Zeldin has given the world a challenge:

“When will we make the same breakthroughs
in the way we relate to each other
as we have made in technology”

My vision is that all children growing up today shall move on to workplaces that take good care of them, inspire them and understand how to play to their strengths. Their workplaces will be free of bullying. Their workplaces will enrich and enlighten their souls and make their hearts thrive and shine.

Why Thrive, Why Does Engagement Matter?

According estimates up to 50% of all jobs are in danger of being replaced over the next 20 years as a result of changes, digital disruption, robots, and Massive Internet of Things (MIoT).

Change processes create fear, uncertainty and stress. Stress in the form of possible job cuts, lack of communication in the process of change, and uncertainty for the company’s future. When a global company goes through a reorganization to cut costs and become more efficient, often the process is not conducted in a way that gives employees trust in their future in the company. The result is a lower commitment from employees, lower productivity that then affects customer satisfaction, sales and profits.

Research done by the Heart Math Institute shows that the brain does not distinguish between different amounts of stress. The effect is the same. Stress kills job satisfaction, motivation, enthusiasm and innovation. Scientists globally warn about the effects stress has on employees and encourage companies to teach their employees to manage stress better.

When employees feel satisfaction and enthusiasm about their jobs, it “turns on” all learning centers in the brain. This provides a greater focus, creativity, innovation, inspiration and smarter decisions. A positive work environment is a prerequisite for people in any company to be proud ambassadors.

Companies with engaged employees have 6% higher profit margin (Towers Perrins) and 5 times higher shareholder returns over a 5-year period (Kenexa).

According to Hay Group; Engaged staff in a good working environment will lead to:

  1. increased KPIs by up to 60%.
  2. a possibility of 4.5 times higher profit.
  3. people 54% more likely to stay in the company.
  4. 50% higher probability of exceeding expectations.

When we know that disengagement directly affects corporate earnings, it’s troublesome to find that only 13% of the global workforce is engaged at work (Gallup).

We have found that global, leading and innovative companies focus on areas that are combination of what we call

The Five Dimensions of Innovation.

Innovative, leading global companies manage to enable meaning, sharing, co-creation, well-being and emotion in the workplace.

Meaning 
People find their work meaningful when they feel worthwhile, useful and valuable – as though they made a difference and were not taken for granted. An example of a company that does well in creating meaning and reap it’s rewards is Starbucks. Over many years, Starbucks has built an ability to foster a relationship-driven, employees-first approach, which encourages staff to form close bonds with each other. Called “partners” rather than employees, even part-time staff (in the US) receive stock options and health insurance. At the height of the global financial crisis, when other companies were cutting HR costs wherever they could, Starbucks invested in staff training, including coffee tastings and courses that ultimately qualified for credit at higher education institutions. Starbucks employees help create a warm, friendly atmosphere in each store not because managers tell them to do so, but it’s the natural result of an inclusive culture.

Sharing

Foster internal sharing of information. It is not possible for people within an organization to be creative or to feel seen or heard if information is not shared internally and across departments. When employees receive the information they want and need, they are more committed to the company, are willing to exert discretionary effort, and their work is more meaningful. When an organization has employees with these characteristics, they have an engaged workforce.

An example here is SAP. The software giant SAP has not only made its mark in the technology arena, but has also won many employer awards, especially in the area of employment brand management. Communication is at the core of their culture, and SAP has a ‘How We Run’ set of behaviors described to make sure that employees understand how things are done and the ‘why’ behind their jobs.

Co-Creation

Enable co-creation – take down the silos, enable conversations across teams and departments, you never know which conversation might spark an idea and a new business opportunity. As long as we are passive recipients of processes designed by the company, our work experience tends to be mediocre—it’s not optimized for us, and we can’t influence it. But if we’re given the latitude to redesign our interactions, we can change the quality of our experience. Collaboration cannot be demanded but can be encouraged. By looking for collaborative skills during the hiring process, helping employees to develop these skills and fostering a culture of collaboration, companies can boost employee engagement and the bottom line.

An example here is Zara. Zara’s recipe for success is “more data, fewer bosses”. The company operates with little hierarchy, allowing its designers greater independence in what they do, from approving products to promotion to store supply. The company relies on data feeds which show which items are popular to alter each store’s stock so that revenue is maximised. While other fashion retailers were either filing for bankruptcy (American Apparel) or struggling with falling profit (H&M, Gap), Zara’s parent company, Inditex, showed an increase of 11% in revenue just in the first half of 2016.

Well-Being

Take care of their people’s well-being and also in regards to targets and goals. They need to feel that it is possible to reach the milestones you’ve set. Yes they should need to go out of their comfort zone to make it, however they won’t be productive if they feel overwhelmed. Well-being and engagement are not only highly correlated, but also mutually reinforcing. Bevan (2010) states, “The relationship between employee health and employee commitment and engagement is multi-faceted. Indeed, there is research evidence that suggests a two- way, possibly self-reinforcing relationship: healthy employees are more committed and committed employees are more healthy”.

An example here is Airbnb. The HR function was replaced with the Employee Experience Department, which works beyond conventional HR responsibilities such as recruitment and training. Airbnb employees are considered equally valued as customers: their workspace resembles homes rather than offices, they are empowered with the latest technology, and a food program ensures abundant energy for a whole working day. Employees are given a “home away from home”, which then translates into great customer experience and satisfaction.

Emotion

Leaders ability to lead with emotion – empathy and compassion will determine how successful the company gets. According to Hay Group’s study “Leadership and its effect on work climate” a leaders behavior and persona affects the work climate in a team by 50-70%, and that impact can explain as much as 28% deviation on the bottom line. Emotional intelligence is more important than any other skill, and managers have to learn to lead themselves and others with better self- knowledge, wisdom, flexibility and good attitudes to help to create a good corporate culture and increase engagement.

For any company it is extremely important to regularly measure (once a year is not enough) the employees’ positive and negative emotional ties to their own work and their own comfort; and see it in the context of the company’s employee and customer satisfaction, profit and growth. And then take action on the results. It is important for the future of the company to find out how employees feel about their job, their leader and in the company they are employed at.

Why Engagement Matters

Therefore – if you want to create a corporate culture you have to manage to make your people feel involved, like influencers, that they have room to create, where it is good interaction (co-creation) vertically and horizontally, that they have a job that provides and creates meaning, growth and development and that he/she think they are important and a part of a larger vision.

Picture Credit: People vector designed by Kjpargeter – Freepik.com

Tonje Elisabeth Aarøe

Tonje Elisabeth Aarøe

Founder and CEO of Growthitude. Expertise in digitization and transformation, employee performance and company culture

The 5 Dimensions of Innovation. Why Engagement Matters.

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