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INTRODUCTION 

Innovation. adaptability and flexibility within the workplace has never been as valued as it is right now. Most employees do not want to feel bound to their desks for eight hours per day now, especially after experiencing the openness of remote work. 

Lessened commutes and the ability to shift working time to non-traditional work hours allowed employees to improve their work/life balance. With the world returning to “normal” after COVID , employees are not ready to completely give up the elements that have dramatically improved their quality of life in favour of returning to the office five days a week. 

However, these are just some of the factors to be taken into account when aiming to enhance innovation in the workplace and staff management. Targeting already set-up business owners – as well as prospective entrepreneurs curious to learn more about innovative approaches to staff management – we will venture into the basics of ever-changing innovation in the workplace. 

The main aims of this Bite Size are: 

  • Gain insight into the ever-changing context of the workforce 
  • Understand the importance of relying on a innovation company culture 
  • Learn how to introduce innovative approaches among your staff 

THEORETICAL CONTENT 

The Changing Workforce  

The changing workforce has been forced to adapt to socio-economic shifts consistently and quickly because of the pandemic. By the beginning of 2023 we are currently still living in a “re-adjustment” phase that has brought about its own set of changes and challenges. 

Employers and employees alike are juggling what their new normal looks like, and how to integrate pandemic-learned behaviours and activities into a post-pandemic world which has taken on an uptake in digital tools allowing for remote work, the creation of virtual company cultures, and an internal focus on employee engagement and satisfaction. 

Many employees have chosen a hybrid approach, hence more hybrid work environments being adopted by organisations, allowing employees to have the freedom and independence of remote work that they enjoy while also providing teams with the opportunity for in-person facetime and collaboration in the office. 

With the wide-spread adoption of hybrid work, employers are enacting efforts to measure employee productivity when not in the office. From tracking hours to monitoring software, employers are trying to gain insight into how teams spend their time. However, these measures may negatively impact trust levels within the workplace. It is very important for employers to work collaboratively and be transparent with their teams and to maintain a sense of trust in deriving innovation from their employees. 

Anyways, if that’s your case and you want to learn more on how to effectively manage your staff when working remotely, then we highly encourage you to have a look at our “How to manage your remote staff” Bite Size. 

Innovation in the workplace  

Innovation in the workplace motivates employees to think differently and more creatively enhancing the growth of the entity. Failure to try new ideas and following the same methods may miss important opportunities for development.Innovation with an Indeed, innovation is the  generation of new ideas through different perspectives and actions implemented, thus leading organisations to finding new solutions to challenges.  

In short, innovation in the workplace is a key  factor in  distinguishing an entity  over competitors, and employees are one of the most productive assets and they can be nurtured through  promoting a culture that encourages creative thinking and passionate work in the workplace. This can inspire staff to share knowledge, experience, skills, suggestions, and recommendations that will increase efficiency of services or company products. 

How  workplace innovation  connects to the Blue Economy 

The importance of innovation was long underestimated in service activities of the Blue Economy. 

In contrast to the radical innovations vital to growth in manufacturing sectors, innovations in services and tourism were secondary and capital scarce. This has greatly  changed with the emergence of new information and communication technologies which have been especially influential in the realm of tourism. 

Innovations represent a challenge that every company faces during its life cycle no matter what kind of business sector it operates in. In today’s world of competitive fast-growing industries, it is paramount to be innovative, especially in tourism. The benefits of innovation  for Blue Economy  entities  is that they   become more attractive to potential new employees,  enhancing  efficiency of the company’s internal operations and the further  improvement to the  workplace environment . 

Ideas create an enhanced environment for innovation in the workplace and this  can be encouraged by giving an  employees the opportunity to: 

  1. Promote cooperation by establishing practices that encourage staff to work together and discuss ways to improve openly 

Examples can include allowing job exchanges that promote new perspectives from different staff. Creating brainstorming sessions to improve operations with employees from different sections of the company. Possibly you can  provide a dedicated area that will enhance staff interaction, an open space where they can sit and chat in a comfortable environment. Informal discussions often improve staff relations and trust, encouraging teamwork and leading to innovation. 

  1. Recruit people with different perspectives and employing  staff with a different set of ideas or approaches will easily lead to creativity in their work  

 When recruiting, look for potential staff members who: 

  • Understand your organisation’  visions 
  • Agree with you in principles, but not the same as yours 
  • Share faith in the idea with different views 
  • Belong to diverse backgrounds 
  • Are passionate about work 
  1. Invest in resources 

Innovation is an investment in the future of your work. It may not seem like a priority at the moment, but having an innovative business will help your business grow and keep      pace with customer demand and industry best practices in the not-so-far-away future. 

  1. Make innovation a core value in a company by encouraging clarity and openness: sharing ideas and suggestions 

Be open and friendly in receiving new ideas and set aside space for staff to create and share ideas. Many large companies often devote time to their employees to move away from routine roles to create new ideas. This could be in the form of individual staff time, or the allocation of time every day or day of the week outside the office. You can also support innovation by preparing: 

  • Brainstorming meetings. 
  • Proposal boxes. 
  • Provision of proposal space on the Intranet for staff. 
  • Creating custom times or rooms for creativity. 
  1. Quickly  implement great ideas! 

Put staff ideas and suggestions into effect as soon as possible. This will give employees more motivation to: 

  • Continue to exchange ideas.  
  • Work for the success of the idea. 
  • Promote the productivity of other staff. 
  1.  Reward staff innovation 

Cheer your staff for their ideas to encourage them to propose all ideas, even if they are not implemented. Where you can offer these rewards to individuals, teams, or the entire workforce, staff’s sense of appreciation would take the lead more into production. 

  1. Use feedback to develop your business 

Also, make sure there is a clear process that everyone understands to evaluate every new idea, and develop a healthy employee. 

In addition, make sure that each proposal is acknowledged on time and that an opinion is expressed on the idea. 

  1. Access  industry trends to keep up with the latest industrial changes and market research in your field. 

Always watch what your competitors do and consider what your company can do to meet customers’ demands. 

Keep up with the latest updates of companies you like that are not in your business. 

  1. Provision of training and reskilling  

Provide staff training that will inspire ideas of continuous innovation and process development. Thus, employees gain experience and the company will benefit from any new ideas and approaches that your employee may have learned. 

The automation of the workforce is not a new concept, however McKinsey reports that by 2030, automation could displace between 400 million and 800 million workers. Fortunately, organisations are recognizing the importance of reskilling their workforce — that is, retraining employees by teaching them new skills. 

On that note, reskilling can be cheaper than rehiring. In a recent survey, 95% of learning professionals reported spending less than $10,000 to reskill an employee. On the other hand, research by the Work Institute found that employee turnover costs 33% of the departing employee’s salary. That’s a significant cost that only increases with salary. Moreover, employees with fresh knowledge and skills may be scarce, hard to attract and expensive to hire. Research by Indeed found that 42% of employers are concerned about finding qualified candidates, so why not to upskill your own? 

Performance Mapping 

It is often difficult for companies to identify which skills their employees have, which skills they need and how to fill the gaps. This is  why thorough needs analyses and performance mapping are vital. Even after you deploy a training program, it might fail to bring about positive outcomes if it does not  address underlying performance challenges. Reskilling initiatives have to start with organisational  goals in mind. Technical skills change quickly. Industry standards for technologies and processes shift more quickly than educational systems can turn out learners. 

In order to gain more knowledge on how to provide upskilling opportunities in your company, we invite you to read our “Upskilling your staff” Bite Size. 

The  Online Manual of Good Practices on Workplace Innovation is a useful tool for those SMEs that need practical advice on possible innovation actions to implement within their companies to improve their organisational processes and increase their competitiveness. It includes a selection of workplace innovation practices relevant to the four main pillars, along with an interactive self-evaluation questionnaire. Have a look to it here: INNovaSouth – Manual 


Sectorial info

Energy 

Innovation in new energy technologies could support both economic growth and the creation of well-paying jobs.

Environmental Protection

Environmental Protection agencies can play a crucial role in helping to plug gaps by conducting research to facilitate policy development, building institutional capacity, and facilitating independent dialogue with civil society to help people live more sustainable lifestyles.

Transport & Port Activity

“Intelligent Transport Systems’ are being developed in which information and communication technologies are applied to transport, including infrastructure and vehicles, traffic management, and interfaces between road and other modes of transport.