A guest blog by Elaine Thatcher.
The correlation between effective Learning & Development (L&D) training and company growth has trended over recent years, with companies that prioritise corporate learning often being more innovative than those that don’t. Significantly, 72% of companies reported that implementing employee Diversity & Inclusion training increased their financial growth in 2019, according to a findcourses.com report.
However, it’s not easy to stand out in a fast-paced, increasingly innovative world, so how can organisations lead the way in a competitive global market?
As trends shift, soft skills have overtaken traditional role-specific or ‘hard’ skills. Therefore, organisations can maintain a competitive advantage by engaging employees with high-quality ongoing communication or leadership training. Effective training increases engagement; it also retains good workers and builds high-performing teams that drive company growth.
Fostering innovation in your organisation may seem like an overwhelming task initially, but there are multiple ways to get creative, and every company strategy looks different. Studies identify that the most innovative leaders share the following traits: leading by example, taking risks, and – most importantly – prioritising employee learning.
Building an innovation culture
Creating a carefully planned, well-executed company strategy to drive and maintain innovation takes time and careful consideration. These three effective L&D strategies can help you succeed as an innovation-friendly project leader:
#1: Make room for creativity
Leaders must encourage idea sharing across all levels of the organisation: a process that could enable group learning with external training providers and speakers. One example of innovative training is Learn.Know.Bos: an annual learning conference by Bonobos in which thought-leaders hold a week of innovation and creative thinking workshops. The conference closes with a ‘hack-a-thon’ where employees consolidate the theory in real-time.
In another example, when the L&D team at Cybercoders created the Associate Recruiter Incubator Program to provide education and mentoring for new tech industry employees, they built an 8-week program that developed individual employee skills and strengthened team relationships.
#2. Create a safe space for risk-taking
Innovation happens outside of comfort zones, so once your team is comfortable creating ideas together, you can step up a gear and encourage risk-taking. Preparing the groundwork is a crucial step. As a project leader, it is your responsibility to foster a supportive and trusting environment where people can take risks without fear of failure or repercussion.
According to Tiffany Poppa, Director of Employee Experience at Bonobos, you should begin with celebrating unique and individual strengths: “Our strengths-based approach has effectively fostered a culture of collaboration and open communication because it celebrates the individual”, she says.
Innovation grows from a wide range of experiences, so the more diverse and inclusive your team, the more innovative it will be. With a wider variety of cultural knowledge and strengths, possibly gained from study overseas – diverse groups are more relevant to emerging global markets. Therefore, leaders should recruit proactively and strive to create effective Diversity & Inclusion initiatives. In addition, hiring recruits who have studied abroad widens the field of expertise on your team. Innovation follows when leaders see people as possibilities and create a safe space to grow.
#3. Experiment, evaluate, re-calibrate
Karen Bicking, Head of Learning & Talent Development at Bayer, believes that risk-taking increases creativity. In 2018, she piloted an experimental scheme where leaders from the pharmaceutical side of the company delivered work outside their usual environment. “They gained experience beyond their regular role and gained exposure to senior leaders”, she says. Her leap of faith led to promotions and increased average salaries within the participating group almost immediately.
Naturally, for an innovative scheme to be successful, a strategic evaluation process must occur during and afterwards. “You can influence innovation when you’re living it”, explains Bickings; therefore, she advises close monitoring, consistent feedback and recalibrating where necessary.
According to findcourses.com’s report, high L&D engagement increases innovation up to three times more. Therefore, leaders must foster a culture of creativity, trust, experimentation, adjustment, and reflection to drive a successful innovation initiative in a competitive market.
About the author
Elaine Thatcher is a Digital Content Writer at findcourses.co.uk. She brings extensive knowledge to her writing from an 18-year career as an educator in British international schools and believes learning is a lifelong goal. Originally from the UK, Elaine has lived in major Asian and European cities and currently resides in Sweden.