Six ways to build a culture of innovation

Winning enterprises are innovative, and it’s the senior leadership’s job to ensure that innovation becomes a strategic, guiding principle that touches every part of the company, argues Shelly Kramer. In this TalentCulture blog post, she identifies six ways to foster a culture of innovation: 1. Embrace a multifaceted approach, starting at the bottom. 2. Empower your employees to provide value in new ways. 3. Understand that failing is OK. 4. Choose your approach to innovation metrics wisely. 5. Don’t be afraid to take action—and quickly. 6. Learn from the past and look to the future. “The ability to innovate and to inspire innovation in [your] team is the foundation for growth, the difference maker, the special sauce,” Kramer writes.

Our research, “Agile Organization for Financial Services,” delves further into how banks and insurers can drive innovation.

Emotional intelligence is key to agility

The key to innovation and agility is the climate created by leaders of an organization, and in order to create the right environment for innovation to flourish, leaders need to develop emotional intelligence (EI), claims Jill Pennington. “For people to be creative and agile in an increasingly uncertain and complex world, they need to feel psychologically safe,” she writes in a Training Journal blog post. “Leaders must raise their understanding and awareness of the climate they create, and manage their own reactions to pressure and change, so they don’t create a ‘survival’ climate that stifles creativity and inhibits agility.” Pennington believes EI can help leaders communicate respect; encourage employees to speak up; be accessible and approachable; show their fallibilities; tolerate failure; and set a vision with clear expectations and boundaries. “L&D teams need to support leaders to change their mindset,” she writes. “If the fundamental concept of leadership changes, then a more adaptive, flexible and empowered workforce will come.”

Five ways to encourage curiosity in the workplace

Developing innovative cultures that embrace learning agility and exploration requires organizations to focus on and enable curiosity in employees, claims Diane Hamilton. In this Forbes blog post, she outlines five steps HR professionals and leaders can take to develop curiosity within their organizations: 1. Determine the inhibitors such as fear, assumptions, technology and environment. “Fear can hold people back if they worry about looking incompetent or unprepared,” she writes. “Many people have a monologue in their head that sometimes talks them out of doing things because they sound boring or too hard.” 2. Develop a SMART—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely—plan. 3. Teach your team curiosity exercises that focus on problems that leadership faces within the organization. 4. Present the feedback from employees to leadership anonymously. 5. Reward curious employees who demonstrate a desire to learn, explore and provide suggestions that could lead to innovative discoveries. “In a time of increased technological changes, it has never been more critical to move away from status-quo thinking and recognize the value of curiosity-based exploration,” Hamilton concludes.

How HR can lead agile change

It’s an exciting and challenging time for HR practitioners and HR has never been better suited to contribute meaningfully to the success of the core business, argues Taralee Brady. “The greatest impetus for change is a new way of working—agile,” she writes in this TalentCulture blog post. “To become agile, there must be a full-scale organizational shift that entails fundamental design changes—from recruiting and training to, most importantly, organizational culture—all of which are in the direct province of HR leaders and teams.” Brady advises HR professionals to partner with other leaders in the organization to define a culture that will enable their strategic goals. She also believes it is important to look for supporters of and role models for change in the organization. “HR’s role has always been an important one, and now it is even more so,” she writes. “Equipped with the ability to drive cultural change, HR practitioners will be at the forefront of this organizational revolution.”

The agile leadership paradox

What are the definitive traits of agile leaders? They are skilled at connecting people to perform better and also adept at disrupting the way people think, claims Simon Hayward. “So being an agile leader means being both an enabler and a disruptor at the same time,” he writes in this HR Magazine article. “This is the agile leadership paradox.” According to Hayward, enablers provide clarity of direction; build trust and show empathy; empower others; work together; and develop learning agility. “Agile leaders also need to help others embrace uncertainty and flourish by working in ways we hadn’t even heard of five years ago,” he writes. Disruptors do this by questioning the status quo; being bold and decisive; developing digital literacy; creating new ways of thinking; and staying close to customer trends. “For some this may mean incremental change in response to competitive forces,” he writes. “For others it may require wholesale reinvention.”

The race for an agile workforce speeds up

According to new HR research from the United Kingdom, organizations are under pressure to increase workforce agility to stay competitive. “The Race to an Agile Workforce” by Capita Resourcing found that an overwhelming majority (86 percent) of UK businesses believe they need to develop a fully agile workforce within two years to stay competitive. Without an established agile workforce within the next two years, nearly half (46 percent) of HR leaders surveyed said, the customer experience is likely to suffer. A similar number (43 percent) think they will face more difficulty attracting and recruiting high-quality talent into the organization, and three in 10 (31 percent) fear they will lose business to competitors and suffer financially. Most HR leaders quoted skills shortages (93 percent) and difficulties recruiting permanent staff (91 percent) as key drivers for a more agile workforce. “Workforce agility has been on the agenda for a number of years, but this research shows that the time for talking is over. Organizations are recognizing the need for bold thinking and fresh approaches to create a workforce that will enable them to compete in the coming years,” Geoff Smith, Executive Director at Capita Resourcing, told The Online Recruitment Resource. “There has to be a holistic approach—it’s simply not enough to skirt around the fringes with tactical measures such as flexible working policies or one-off investments in technology.”

Five tips to manage a flexible workforce

Innovative technology and an agile workforce mean an increasingly fluid working pattern, one that requires an effective flexible work policy. In this European CEO article, Sanj Mahal, CEO of AndCo, shares five tips to successfully manage a flexible workforce. 1. Identify suitable work locations and consider offering subscriptions to affordable co-working spaces. 2. Introduce clear policies for mobile device usage and expectations on email response times. 3. Track employees’ progress on specific tasks and projects with collaborative tools. 4. Establish a culture of support and trust by giving clear objectives and scheduling regular check-up meetings. 5. Use technology to support productivity and maintain contact with employees. “Being prepared and having the tools and policies in place to implement flexible working is important so that you can manage a growing number of workers away from the office, while maintaining a satisfied and efficient workforce,” Mahal concludes.

The valuable role of an agile coach

In this CIO article, Sarah K. White explains the valuable role that agile coaches play in organizational change by developing teams and facilitating the cultural change necessary for sustained agile success. “An agile coach will keep businesses on task while they embark on building internal agile development teams—which can help save time, money and resources. The coach serves as an objective party to help navigate common roadblocks and pain points in the adoption process,” she writes. Each company has diverse needs for agile adaptation, so there are three different types of agile coaches to serve their unique needs: technical coaches, process/management coaches and non-directive coaches. “Some businesses might want an agile coach with a strong technical background, while others might want someone who can get leadership to embrace the change. As businesses continue in their agile strategies, some will want to consult an agile coach for one-off issues or questions that arise,” White writes.

Building agile leaders

In this Business2Community blog post, Rick Lepsinger outlines the five competencies of agile leaders and how organizations can build these skills. 1. Develop situational awareness by using critical thinking skills and creating an extensive network of contacts. 2. Embrace systems thinking by acquiring a broad knowledge of the organization through experience in a variety of departments, functions and geographical locations. 3. Develop prioritization skills by balancing the urgency of tasks and goals with the resources at hand. 4. Develop and maintain self-awareness through a loop of feedback, self-assessments, coaching and practice. 5. Build personal integrity by demonstrating a set of attitudes and behaviors that enable others to trust a leader. “These tips and guidelines will be a deciding factor that separates great leadership from mediocrity,” Lepsinger writes.

Creating agile leaders the right way

“Agile leaders need to have a diverse array of both technical and soft skills, but leadership development programs are often stuck in old ideologies and methodologies,” writes Rick Lepsinger in this B2C post. In order to create leaders who can thrive in a modern setting, he suggests leadership development programs feature these key characteristics: Experiential learning; multiple types of learning content; content aligned to development needs; senior leaders who model effective leadership behaviors; faculty with a variety of skills, viewpoints and experiences; and portable lesson content that can be accessed anywhere. “To meet the demands of customers, it is imperative to have agile leaders who can balance people, processes, and innovation to keep the organization moving forward,” Lepsinger writes. “Developing leaders in your organization is a crucial part of ensuring continued success. Having strong leaders who can balance people, execution, and innovation can help people at all levels of your organization to succeed.”