Workplace Innovation, what’s it all about?


Companies face unprecedented challenges in an economy dominated by globalisation, rapid technological advances, demographic change and fast-shifting consumer demands. The ability to reinvent products, services and processes continually is becoming essential for survival and success.

Tackling these challenges can’t be done by senior teams alone: they need to harness the creativity, insights and engagement of the entire workforce. Leaders need to empower others to take the initiative, coaching and supporting them towards successful outcomes. They must become the champions of employee empowerment, participation and voice.

Innovation, productivity and engagement are being discussed everywhere. So why are they so difficult to achieve?

The challenge for leaders is to take a systemic view of their own organisational structures and practices. Creating the culture of innovation and enterprise needed for twenty-first century challenges requires tenacity. It means confronting deeply embedded attitudes and behaviours, asking difficult questions, and being open to experiences from a diverse range of other organisations.

So what does the high performing, innovative and engaging organisation look like?

In 2001, the European Commission requested a study designed to analyse evidence both from existing literature and from an international sample of more than one hundred private and public sector organisations, each characterised by high performance and high quality of working life. The Hi-Res study involved collaboration across eight EU countries and more than a hundred public and private sector enterprises across all sizes and sectors. Its aim was to discover the workplace practices that could create high performance, enhanced capacity for innovation and great places to work simultaneously.

The key concept here is workplace innovation. It describes workplace practices and cultures which enable employees at all levels to use their knowledge, competences and creativity to the full. It builds workplaces in which people come to work to undertake their functional tasks in the most effective way possible and to improve the organisation. Evidence shows that workplace innovation leads to significant and sustainable improvements in both organisational performance and employee engagement and well-being.

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