Provide an environment that allows employees to innovate

Published: Thursday, June 27, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

“Innovation” is a hot concept right now. Well-known author and speaker Guy Kawasaki sums it up: “‘Innovate or die is how the world works.”

Usually when people discuss innovation and business, it’s associated with a company’s new product or revolutionary process. But those topics are actually just the outcomes. True innovation stems from a company’s workforce, the intellectual property inside their employees’ heads. So when you see a business with the inability to innovate, the heart of the problem actually lies in the leaders’ inability to hire and retain quality employees.

Finding and keeping top talent is what will make or break a company in the “new economy.” It is vital that as leader you do whatever it takes to ensure your business’ success. When a business owner or leader makes the decision to “crown the company’” they begin to empower their team to grow the business. The leader has to know that the right people are in the right seats and that they have the capability to handle the task of innovation. In order for your employees to become innovative in their responsibilities and keep your employers ahead of the competition, you must do three things: Build trust, cultivate passion and inspire loyalty. These three keys must be at the top of your to-do list if you want to protect your workplace from one of today’s top business challenges – the inability to innovate.

Build trust. Trust is a two-way street. First, your employees must trust you in order to have the freedom to be innovative or motivated to work hard. Trust only comes through honest communication and consistent follow-through from your leadership. Say what you mean, do what you say. On the flip side, you also have to trust your employees. Kawasaki points out that you have to “Trust your employee(s) enough to know they can make the right decision for customers. When you show this level of trust and empower employees, they do the best work that they can.” If you can’t trust a team member you must change the dynamic or allow them to pursue their passions elsewhere.

Cultivate passion. Today’s successful businesses have the most engaged and enthusiastic employees. Passion must originate at the top. “The leadership team must be passionate in order for the rest of the organization to be passionate,” said OtterBox founder and CEO Curt Richardson in a recent Inc.com article. “Who wants to come to work for someone who is just going through the motions and working for the next professional advancement?” Are you excited about your company’s goals and mission? Work to spread that excitement! “Vision leaks” is a true statement. You must have a vision and consistently recast it for your team. A simple test of how well you’ve spread your passion is to each of your team members:

• What is our goal?

• What is our mission?

• What is your role in making it happen?

Inspire loyalty. Maintaining an innovative workplace means that you must also foster a loyal workforce. Hiring top talent is the first step, but keeping your talented workers engaged and invested in your business is the only way to achieve long-term success. There are many ideas regarding how to build employee loyalty, but it truly boils down to leadership. As the leader, you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Regarding inspiring leadership Kawasaki says, “Employees need to know that you’ll do the dirty, hard, and frustrating jobs, too.”

If you want your business to be successful and stay ahead of the competition, then you must realize that hiring and retaining top talent is the only way. A passionate, engaged workforce is the key to becoming an innovative industry leader. But, it’s up to you to provide an environment that allows your employees to innovate. Give them what they need, and they’ll return the investment, one hundred-fold!

• Terri Greeno owns Express Employment Professionals in Crystal Lake.

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