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

Workplace Innovation

What is workplace innovation?

Workplace innovation is about getting the best from an organisation’s key resources (people, processes, and relationships) to deliver on organisational objectives and improve the quality of work for employees. It is about enabling new ideas to be generated from within the organisation through high levels of collaboration that generate alternatives to ‘business as usual’. 

Innovation is often associated with invention, automation and research and development.  While these are important, workplace innovation is much broader, focussing on organisational, technical and social innovation to drive value creation and deliver rewarding work.

Workplace innovation is, therefore, an outcome and a process. The outcomes can be new ideas about products/services, processes, policies and behaviours.  The process of innovating arises out of how organisations and tasks are designed, how people are managed, how decisions are made, how technical processes interact with non-technical processes and how organisations interact with their external environments and with key stakeholders such as customers, clients, suppliers, competitors, communities and society.

As an outcome and a process, innovating in workplaces involves an ongoing and self-reinforcing loop (or virtuous circle) - It’s about creating the good working conditions and environment for organisations to engage fully with their employees to engage fully, and in turn, create spaces for employees to engage with the organisation.

Why does workplace innovation matter?

We know that innovation is crucial to business and national productivity and to economic and social well-being.  Productive organisations deliver on business growth, economic wealth and national economic outcomes, creating the opportunity and resource to support social policy priorities.  

Work and workplaces are crucial to creating sustainable innovation and growth.  Inclusive and engaging workplaces provide staff with good quality jobs that utilise their skills and develop their talents effectively enabling these staff, in turn, to deliver high levels of performance and future innovation. 

However, when looking at the characteristics associated with productivity and innovation, UK businesses overall lag businesses in more successful EU economies. To illustrate, only 35% of UK employees report having jobs that give scope to learn and problem solve, below the EU average of 39% and significantly behind countries like Denmark (60%) and the Netherlands (64%) (EWCS 2012). Similarly, more UK employees report lower opportunities for learning and innovation than in the rest of the EU15 countries (EWCS 2012). Worryingly, more than half of the employees surveyed in the UK Workplace Employment Relations Survey 2012 reported that their skills are not fully utilised in their jobs.  

Yet there is evidence of a positive relationship between jobs that stretch and challenge employees and business innovation. The statistics above, therefore, suggest that there is  considerable untapped potential in UK firms.  Workplace innovation can unleash this potential.