Embrace workplace flexibility and embody innovation

In his autumn statement, the Chancellor Phillip Hammond announced the need for the UK to embrace a vision for a stronger digital economy, claiming that productivity is essential for the “high wage, high skill economy”.

To get this off the ground, Hammond announced a National Productivity Investment Fund of £23 billion to spend on innovation and infrastructure over the next five years.

This will give UK’s digital economy a welcome boost, following recent reports made by the National Infrastructure Commission that Britain’s 4G mobile phone coverage is worse than that in Albania, Panama and Romania.

Whilst having the backing of the government is the first step towards a solution, it cannot be their sole responsibility to build our digital future.

Private sector businesses must take action to foster a diverse, creative and digitally-savvy workforce to drive productivity forward and use this investment to create a true innovative workplace. Why? Investing in the right skills and providing fast and seamless services for customers and employers is imperative as we move further into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

>See also: 8 ways Philip Hammond put technology at the centre of his first Autumn Statement

However, the latest statistics clearly show that the UK is lagging behind its European peers in terms of productivity.

As Hammond claimed in his speech, it essentially takes a German worker four days to produce what we do in five nowadays.

In other words, ‘too many British workers work longer hours for lower pay than their counterparts’. It is a well-known fact that there are substantial positive impacts on productivity that derive from innovation in the workplace. So what can be done to improve this and encourage an innovative culture at work?

Workplace innovation in decline

Recent research carried out by BMC and Opinion Life, shows that only under half (42%) of workers in the UK think that their workplace is innovative enough.

A further 54% of employees say they feel inspired at work, compared to 73% in France and 74% in Spain.

This clearly shows that British businesses are struggling to foster an innovative culture fast enough and failing to capitalise on the creativity of their staff.

The workplace is the heart of an organisation that has a significant impact on the satisfaction, behaviour and the productivity of employees.

UK businesses are squandering great talent and ideas by failing to create a culture of innovation and creativity at work where digital business can thrive and flourish.

Organisations need to focus on people and how IT can empower them to work more efficiently. But, for this to happen, companies need to firstly invest in systems that enable this sort of behaviour and, secondly, IT needs to actively market its offerings to ensure employees take advantage of the benefits.

>See also: Investment in fibre optic and 5G is a welcome boost for UK business

While 82% of UK workers think that their workplace is productive and a further 74% think it is efficient, less than half believe their workplace is innovative.

Fostering an ethos of creativity requires an element of bravery and risk-taking on the business side. Creative collaboration is essential but UK businesses seem to have missed a trick here with almost a third of UK employees saying that their workplace is siloed and fragmented.

The solution is never ‘one size fits all’ in this instance, but simple measures such as ensuring employees have regular access to informal work areas or breakout zones can make all the difference.

Revitalise the creative passion: top tips

Those companies that purely concentrate on building an innovative infrastructure in the office rather than encouraging their employees to embrace a structured way of thinking that delivers results, will fail to retain a competitive edge.

Remember that structure does not always kill innovation and being transparent and assured about values and goals, expectations and desired outcomes, is crucial.

Regular feedback and update sessions are also essential to make staff feel they are being heard and their opinion valued. According to the survey, UK businesses are also failing to capitalise upon the creativity of their staff.

While 67% feel able to offer their ideas at work, only 57% think that management are receptive to new ideas. Create an environment where debate is encouraged, discussing new ideas and taking everyone’s ideas in to account, even if you don’t always agree with them.

Hire the right people. It won’t be immediately obvious if a candidate is ‘innovative’, but they will demonstrate certain qualities that can embody this such as imagination, being personable, inspiration, tenacity, flexibility and persistence.

Ensure that you hire a diverse spectrum of candidates from varying cultural backgrounds who can provide different viewpoints and promote an atmosphere of innovative thinking.

Avoid hiring people who all think the same, or worse still, think the same as you as this will stagnate creativity and not hamper the debate necessary to nurture innovation.

Strike the challenge balance and ensure that work is suitably demanding and requires brain power, yet is not overtly stressful or overwhelming.

Encourage autonomy and don’t restrict their creative licence by exerting too much control. Trust your employees by allowing them to take ownership in making innovation a reality.

>See also: UK government pledge: superfast 5G mobile networks

Nothing inspires an individual more than being an active part of process that sees their concept or idea brought to fruition.

It is essential to remember that today’s workplace is not always a physical location. Advancements made in technology mean that the digital workplace is now very much ‘a la mode’ in most sectors.

As a result, embracing flexibility is the easiest way to entrench innovation and enhance creative thinking and collaboration.

Ultimately it’s an approach that empowers employees to work the way they want to, boosting productivity and engagement for the entire business.


Sourced by Paul Cant vice president, EMEA at BMC Software

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...