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Looking for a new way to innovate in your business? Your employees, and their ideas, could be the creative solution you need to improve your business practices.

Workplace innovation, as this practice has come to be known, has been defined as ‘growth with values’. By encouraging employees to have their voices heard by sharing ideas and implementing suggestions, we will not only create a greater sense of workplace satisfaction – but can foster a range of wide-reaching benefits for businesses in general. 

Clare Alexander, head of workplace innovation at Scottish Enterprise, met with us to discuss the challenge, and the benefits of inclusive growth and people-centred change.

Celebrating collective creativity

Put simply, workplace innovation is about creating a culture where staff are fully engaged and supported to reach their full potential. Through a programme of structured workshops and learning events, we're aiming to energise and inspire public, private and third sector businesses to listen to the ideas of their employees.

"We know that successful and sustainable organisations create empowering workplace environments that enable employees - across all levels - to use their knowledge, competencies and talents to the fullest possible extent" says Clare.

Research also shows that fair work practices – and increasing employee motivation and well-being within the workplace plays a particularly important role in reducing employee stress, enhancing job satisfaction and wellbeing, improving mental health and increasing retention.

Clare Alexander, head of workplace innovation, Scottish Enterprise

Embracing the benefits

"Scotland has the potential to significantly increase outputs by £45billion, through increasing the productivity of our existing businesses and it is widely recognised that this would require a 35% improvement in current performance. Workplace innovation can go some way to addressing this gap."

“From extensive research, we know that fair work practices play a particularly important role in reducing employee stress, enhancing job satisfaction and well-being, improving mental health and increasing retention,” she adds.

“This, in turn, feeds into ongoing improvements in innovation, productivity and efficiency, creating a positive and self-perpetuating cycle.”

A review of American research shows that the magnitude of the impact on efficiency outcomes is substantial - with productivity premiums ranging between 15 percent and 30 percent for those investing in workplace innovation."

Putting it into practice

This deeper style of engagement is proving popular. Tayside technical textiles manufacturing firm Scott & Fyfe were early adopters of this technique. They're now 93 per cent owned by an employee benefit trust and seven per cent directly by employees. They've embedded the workplace innovation idea into the very fabric of their organisation - making it a centralised, integral part of the experience. 

“We have developed some very exciting new ideas, some of which are taking us directly into new markets we didn’t know even existed” says Nick Kuenssberg, chairman professor at the company. 

Using four strategic business pods, each with a round table – the surroundings provide a sense of equality for employees. Ideas are freely discussed and shared, between employees of all levels, and recorded on whiteboards.

“An idea is left there, people can work on it and everyone can see what is happening and critique what’s going on,” says Nick. 

How we can support you to success

Benefits stretch far beyond a productivity boost. Many businesses have taken this theme and used employee ideas and collective thinking to reinforce links with the surrounding community.

Workplace innovation is already commonplace in many European countries. We’re working hard to embed this principle in other Scottish businesses, bringing creativity and accessible skills to the fore when they are needed. 

Clare reaffirms, “We’re developing a workplace innovation service aimed at helping firms uncover new ways of working to make the best use of all resources - people, processes and relationships – to deliver their objectives while also creating the workforces that will drive Scotland’s productivity, innovation and competitiveness.”

Taking the next step

Are you interested in learning about how workplace innovation can shape your business future?

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