Workplace innovation as an enabler of digital technologies

Booth Welsh, an engineering services company based in Scotland, is an example of an organisation whose workplace innovation journey has led it into readiness for the adoption of digital technologies. The company recognised that engaging its workforce more effectively was central to future competitiveness. After joining a publicly funded workplace innovation development programme, Booth Welsh surveyed its entire workforce using the Workplace Innovation Diagnostic® based on The Fifth Element. The results showed that employees experienced few opportunities to take part in improvement and innovation, often worked in functional silos with little interaction with the rest of the business, and felt little connection with company strategy. A three-year programme was created to address the root causes of these challenges; it includes:

Jobs, Teams and Technology Decision-making is being devolved to self-managed teams, increasing frontline empowerment and responsibility for achieving strategic targets.
Organisational Structures, Management and Processes A flattened management structure is anticipated, enabling the organisational structure to be redesigned around workflow rather than specialist functions. Line managers will be refocused on activities relating to their individual strengths.
Employee Driven Improvement and Innovation Co-Labs bring people together across different functions to identify potential product, service and process innovations. Dedicated innovation spaces have been created, accessible by all employees.
Co-Created Leadership and Employee Voice All employees are encouraged to contribute to the development and implementation of four business-critical ‘Strategic Pillars’, each comprising a series of working groups and actions.

For Booth Welsh, the result has been a tangible unleashing of employee creativity and initiative, ranging from minor incremental improvements to strategically significant innovations. Critically it has introduced ‘Industry 4.0’ as a narrative that is beginning to run throughout the business, leading to the acceptance and introduction of digital technologies both internally and in the services offered to clients.

Forum topic: What is the medium-term potential for the adoption of digital technologies in your organisation?

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