The following is a guest post by Lewisa Anciano and Amanda Fenton.
Companies everywhere are facing increased competition and diminishing returns. We’re told “Innovate or die”. Almost every company I know would say they are trying to innovate their products, services, customer experience or even their business model.
But where is innovation happening in your organization? Is it relegated to secret suites and high-level handshakes? What is the ratio of innovators to employees? There is an untapped opportunity to embrace an innovation culture and move innovation out of the tower to the front line.
Peter Skarzynski, in his book Innovation to the Core, describes how new voices are essential for new thinking, and to give disproportionate share of voice to three constituencies typically underrepresented:
1. Young people (or those with a youthful perspective).
2. Newcomers to the company (preferably those from other industries).
3. People from the geographic periphery of the organization (further away from head office).
Putting innovation aside for a moment, these three groups also hold tremendous potential for your talent development pipeline. Coast Capital Savings decided to take exactly this approach, recognizing that we could engage people of all levels of the organization, building their individual leadership capability while creating innovative ideas for our corporate strategy and for our employee experience.
In our presentation at the Canadian Talent Management Summit conference in Toronto we’ll share our story of how we used an orthodoxy busting approach with diverse employee groups from all around our organization. The sessions produced more than just ideas – budding leaders were also identified for our talent development programs.
In one particular session, a front line employee was presenting his group’s work, and was challenged by a senior leader on his description of lack of empowerment in their day-to-day work. He took a deep breath and respectfully told the story of situations he frequently faced and was required to escalate instead of being able to address it himself.
It was a leadership moment for him: telling his truth in a room that included several Directors and senior leaders, creating space for continued dialogue and exploration. His courageous story created incredible support around one of our five new employee revolutions “It’s Your Call”.
We are doing everything we can to create a culture of innovation by having a bold employee experience that encourages innovation. We’ve defined our bold employee experience through five themes; tenants that provide us with the foundation to build an innovation culture:
1. Build Your Brand
2. Room to Grow
3. It’s Your Call
4. Cool Place and Space
5. Leaders Who Inspire
I once read an article about three tips for tapping employee innovation at all levels and am proud to say that at Coast Capital Savings, we embody all three. The first is to publicize the importance of creative thought in the organization. We use every opportunity to emphasize that we are a disrupter in the market and that we are going to do things different. This is championed by our executive team and particularly when we win innovation awards, we celebrate the heck out of it.
The second is to introduce organization-wide programs and processes that encourage creative thought and decision making and we have programs such as our Orthodoxy Innovation Sessions to engage our staff. We also build leadership development programs with a focus on innovation and creativity.
Finally, it is critical to create incentives to promote innovation. We have many examples of infusing innovation into our recognition programs including our High-five Hub, which is our Facebook-style recognition platform where over 2,300 employee high-five recognitions are given each month. We also have an annual employee recognition night with the converted category “Innovator of the Year” awarded by our CEO.
Our journey towards creating innovation through our talent is still a work in progress but we are well on our way!
So what other measures and opportunities do you think leaders can implement to foster innovation and develop the talent found in your organization?
Lewisa Anciano is the Vice-President, People responsible for innovative people programs and practices at Coast Capital Savings. Lewisa will be presenting her talk “Elevating Leadership Through Innovation” at the Canadian Talent Management Summit conference, which I’m collaborating with as one of their media partners.
Amanda Fenton is the Manager of Leadership Practices at Coast Capital Savings, where she stewards the management and leadership development program. She is also a facilitator and host of conversations that matter, using participatory leadership processes that invite diverse groups together to co-create new solutions.