Innovating Works...
...Improving work and workplaces
 

Workplace Innovation

Defining workplace innovation:

The European Commission (2014) defines workplace innovation as:

Innovations in the way enterprises are structured, the way they manage their human resources, the way internal decision-making and innovation processes are devised, the way relationships with clients or suppliers are organised or the way the work environment and the internal support systems are designed.

Workplace innovation is a reflexive process, grounded in continuing reflection, learning and improvements, and involving employees and managers at all levels.

Those innovations aim at improving staff motivation and working conditions, thereby enhancing labour productivity, organisational performance, innovation capability, reactivity to market changes and consequently business competitiveness.

Workplace innovation can be found in all types of organisation, be they large corporates, SMEs or even public administrations.

What the European Commission definition highlights is that workplace innovation is relevant to all firms and represents a potentially significant source of value creation.  Participatory processes involving the whole organisation can lead to better working conditions, quality of working life and engagement by employees – these, in turn, can improve business competitiveness, responsiveness and innovation.  

The EU definition highlights organisational levers that can be modified to deliver a more collaborative, engaging workplace by harnessing people, processes and relationships/networks. 

People

People innovate.  One key issue is the extent to which businesses use all of their employees, at all levels, to innovate.  As people undertake their daily work roles, they develop task and organisational knowledge that, with space to reflect, learn, share and experiment, can identify new and better ways of working. This can form a virtuous cycle of employee work, learning, innovation and change.  In some organisations, employees drive innovation at a local level.

Processes

Business processes – technical and social – harness people to a business’s purpose.  Businesses invest considerable resources in restructuring technology and work – but this investment doesn’t always pay off (Casio & Wynn, 2004). One reason for this is a failure to align people and processes to maximise both.  Moreover, business process restructuring that drives low value business models generate negative outcomes that impose costs on society – for example, where low pay needs to be topped up through the tax and welfare system.  Aligning people and processes can enhance the impact of business processes and be used to support higher value business models. 

Stakeholder/Network Relationships

Businesses exist in a network of customers/clients, suppliers and competitors; they operate in particular locations and interact with local communities, and they operate in local, regional, national and international markets and knowledge contexts. These networks can be harnessed to share good practice, develop ideas collaboratively and access resources in partnership. Crucially, stakeholder collaboration can enable businesses to do more than is possible acting alone.