Creating the Right Culture to Unlock Innovation
By: Adam Roberts
4th April 2018
Having a customer-focused mindset is essential in business today. We all know that if you build differential and customised customer service plans you can increase your loyalty, increase revenues and grow your market share.
However, the most successful brands in the world are doing more than this to stay successful and market leading. Companies like Google, Apple and IBM are applying the same customer-focused mindset to building superior employee experiences (EX). So is having the right employee culture the new competitive edge?
Let’s start with some research. In a recent study by Accenture, companies with highly engaged workforces are 21% more profitable than those with poor engagement. Furthermore, leading companies are already realising the striking comparisons between CX (Customer Experience) and EX with 51% of business leaders surveyed planning to create individualised employee experiences comparable to consumer experiences in the next two years.
So employee experiences are important, what does this mean to me?
In order to remain competitive organisations must have employee engagement plans that enhance employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention. In doing so, you’ll also promote brand equity, competitive advantage, and sustainable growth. A big part of this, I believe, is creating a culture that unlocks innovation and the keys to accomplishing this are threefold.
Tools to collaborate
Have you ever noticed the technology we use and enjoy at home (in our personal lives) doesn’t always help us carry out the roles and responsibilities of our jobs? Many people find that when they get to the workplace, every app that they have on their phone becomes an unwanted distraction that actually hinders and/or slows them down. Using the right tools enables an open and transparent environment for employees to effectively communicate and work together.
This principle is fully embraced by Google as every employee can view the personal goals and objectives of every other employee. On a similar note, software engineers at Google also get access to almost all of Google’s code on their first day. This might sound a little extreme but by valuing an open and transparent company culture, Google teaches its employees that it believes them to be trustworthy and have good judgment. That, in turn, empowers staff to collaborate as a team to deliver their best work.
Tech SMEs can start to embrace this principle of openness and transparency in their processes by adopting a number of technologies that aid communication, such as open calendar access and/or use of an intranet site or forum. One of the ways we communicate project success at Plextek is through a bespoke project management system where all engineers and project managers can access each other’s workloads. This aids collaboration in meeting deadlines and ease of communicating progress to the rest of the consultancy.
Culture to Collaborate
Create an environment that sparks creativity and innovation. Having rooms and offices that are decorated with pictures and painted with vibrant colours does more than just impress the visitors at the reception desk. There is actually some science behind the layouts of offices and how they can be the catalyst for creativity in the workspace. I’d like to demonstrate this with an office that I’m fairly familiar with – the Plextek office.
We have a completely flat organisation. Directors, Executives, Managers, Consultants, Engineers and Graduates all sit at desks just beside everyone else. There are no pop-up office walls or offices with assistants or secretaries standing guard outside. This means that there are very few barriers to stop people from going to talk to the exact person they need at that moment in time.
It sounds simple I know, however, this physical equalisation, this physical democratisation, makes people at any level feel like their ideas are just as important as anyone else’s ideas. Everyone feels comfortable to speak up and share. We also have a kitchen/coffee point (with a whiteboard) that is placed between different engineering groups. This is another intentional effort to encourage great spontaneous conversation between staff where different ideas and different solutions can take form.
Some of you might be thinking that it is too difficult to implement some of these things into what you already do but the principles are quite simple. Have monthly socials between working teams (we have a Chinese Cook Off and the food is always incredible!), host a running or walking club, whatever the activity may be, it is about creating and having a spontaneous environment for people to come together and cross-pollinate ideas.
Whatever change your organisation or team is going through it is important to actually make change stick. Teams and organisations not only need to survive with this change but they also need to thrive in it. At the beginning of this blog, I posed the question “What does this mean to me?” and that will be one of the first questions employees will be asking when accepting your change. I believe you must communicate your change to the head, the heart and the feet of your employees to ensure that it becomes part of the new routine.
- Make your messaging for these changes very clear and simple to understand. Customise this message to the different user groups the change will involve and have specific logical reasons that the user can easily consume.
- Have a carefully picked executive sponsor who is well known and make sure this person is trained on the change, understands it, and leads by example. Promote the desired result in overall company vision and culture with emotion. And if the change is coming from you, make sure you walk the talk!
- Do they have the behaviours they need? Do they have the training and knowledge required to walk the walk in the new world of your change?
So is having the right employee culture the new competitive edge? Yes, I believe that it plays an integral part (but only a part) of a much bigger shift for businesses in the future. Deloitte are calling this shift “The rise of the social enterprise” and ultimately summarises the need for building superior employee experiences in order to succeed in this new landscape.
“Organisations are no longer assessed based only on traditional metrics such as financial performance, or even the quality of their products or services. Rather, organisations today are increasingly judged on the basis of their relationships with their workers, their customers, and their communities, as well as their impact on society at large — transforming them from business enterprises into social enterprises.”