By KEELY WITHEROW
A recent study conducted by professional search engine findcourses.com found that executives highly engaged in L&D (learning and development) were three times more likely to say their company had a culture of innovation.
A key leadership goal of any company, big or small, is the development of a culture of innovation. While a culture of innovation can look different across companies and industries, certain traits stand out among their leaders. Unsurprisingly, the most innovative leaders are unafraid to take risks, are highly engaged in L&D practices, and encourage employees to personalise their own learning.
Eager to begin fostering new ideas and excitement in your own team? Read on to discover how top leaders in L&D achieve that goal.
Does the idea of risks without repercussions elicit feelings of unease? Calm any concerns, because risk-taking is one of the best routes to innovation and is embraced by L&D leaders at top companies.
You may be interested in: Do You Seek Risks?
At Bonobos (an E-commerce company specialising in men’s apparel), the focus is on employees’ individual strengths. According to their director of employee experience:
Focusing on strengths creates trust; it creates a safe space to try something and possibly fail, have a conversation about it, and move forward.
For many companies, innovation is a byproduct of a culture that prioritises relationship building and trust between employees and managers over learning hard skills.
Sharing new ideas between colleagues on all levels of the organisation is a key to innovation and must be encouraged despite the possibility of failure. Where there’s support, there’s innovation – and trust needs to exist between team members for innovation to flourish.
Experiment, evaluate, recalibrate
Innovation is a natural by-product of risk-taking, but since there are so many effective mediums and methods to deliver learning, it’s important to think outside the box and beyond traditional learning. Most importantly, never be afraid to recalibrate based on results.
Pharmaceutical giant Bayer is one example of a company whose risky learning experiment proved successful. They put leaders on projects that were outside of their normal space, allowing them to gain experiences beyond their regular roles and access to senior leaders. It proved immensely successful, and a number of them were promoted shortly after the program concluded.
While not every learning experiment is as successful as Bayer’s, the knowledge gained in the process is invaluable. If a risk goes awry, it’s vital to carry out evaluations and continuously monitor feedback to produce and develop the most innovation-driving programs.
Two important steps in this process are evaluation and recalibration, which can be carried out via surveys, focus groups, or other evaluation techniques. Determining which programs work, which can be optimised, and which should be reconsidered is crucial.
Even more critical, however, is the cultivation of a working environment where employees can question current processes without repercussion. In a space where there’s mutual trust, reflection can grow into innovation.
Promote diversity and inclusion
All those great ideas that spark innovation wouldn’t be possible without a diverse and inclusive team. Teams where different cultures, ages, nationalities, and genders all sit around the same table are more creative and innovative.
Read also: Empowering the Intergenerational Workforce
However, having a diverse team is not enough. As a team lead, it’s important to make every member of the team felt heard and accepted so that they feel free to share their ideas and learn from each other.
As an added bonus, diverse teams help bring an organisation from the local or regional level to the global level. Developing products that are applicable to different cultures and markets is not possible without a diverse team working together.
Maintain a flexible framework
Open and flexible frameworks that allow for changes in internal reporting structures or mergers and acquisitions are a key attribute of L&D programs that promote innovation. This type of structure is designed to remain nimble and to adjust to organisational changes without compromising speed or quality.
As opposed to agile and flexible programs, overly planned L&D programs are less likely to adapt to changes in business strategy. When business needs shift, don’t be afraid to stray from your schedule or tailor your program to individualised needs.
For innovation to occur, any L&D program needs to take into account the individualised present (and future) needs of employees which will enhance the workplace culture according to the UK L&D Report insights.
Personalising L&D to provide specific content related to an individual’s role and responsibilities is something EY (a multinational professional services firm) prides itself in. According to their global assurance learning leader:
The personalisation can come either from our professionals accessing required content at the right time for them, or from choosing specific content relevant for their role and the clients they’re working on.
Don’t forget to connect L&D to innovation
A great L&D initiative could be powerful enough to spark company-wide innovation, but why not be more proactive? Focusing learning around topics like creative thinking, overcoming unconscious bias, and strengths-based innovation gives employees the tools they need to put their great ideas into practice.
Planning programs around the topic of innovation might include a speaker series with innovators in your industry, a course on design thinking, or hack-a-thons where employees take a step back from their daily duties to focus on what could be improved at their companies.
So, what learning strategies will you use to make your employees more engaged and innovative?A