Introduction to Employee-Driven Innovation and Improvement Element

In a nutshell . . .

Research findings from several countries, and covering many sectors, show that empowering employees to improve their own work practices, face new and stimulating challenges, and take part in regular, collaborative opportunities to think creatively is strongly associated with higher levels of productivity, innovation, engagement and psychological well-being. Evidence and experience also show that such involvement helps avoid many of the costly errors associated with the introduction of new technologies and helps secure a full return on investment. For example, the Danish trade union confederation shows that high involvement improvement and innovation is good for both employees and competitiveness.

Employee-Driven Innovation and Improvement also addresses several areas of concern to many companies. Please think about your team or organisation and score the following issues (1 = No Problem; 10 = severe Problem):



Active and systematic contributions to innovation and improvement rely on time and permission to step back from functional tasks on a regular basis, enabling employees to explore new ideas with others. The starting point is to encourage and incentivise such involvement, perhaps overcoming the reluctance of those employees whose ideas may previously have been ignored or have just learnt to ‘keep their heads down’. Senior teams need to make such opportunities as abundant and accessible as possible, and to send clear messages which ensure that people at all levels feel confident and inspired to take part. Line managers need to be fully aligned with employee engagement in innovation and improvement, ensuring the availability of time and resources.

Let’s consider three main aspects of employee involvement in innovation and improvement: Enterprising Behaviour, Continuous Improvement and High Involvement Innovation.

Enterprising behaviour means reigniting or maintaining entrepreneurial spirit throughout the organisation, and is an essential condition for the sustainable engagement of employees in improvement and innovation. There is no hard and fast distinction between continuous improvement and high involvement innovation – we’ve seen many examples where accumulated improvements have resulted in far-reaching changes over time. Continuous improvement can sometimes be seen as an incremental approach to innovation when it is sustained, not least because it generates a flow of new insights and shared learning.

Nonetheless it is useful to consider the different types of workplace practices associated with each.


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