Five Ways to Foster a Culture of Innovation for Your Tech Workforce

Author

Deepali Dani

Senior Director – People Team

Walmart Global Tech India 

 

Apr. 22, 2022

Albert Einstein famously quoted, "Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."

The reality, today, begs to differ with most businesses focusing on gains - results and returns. Rarely do they engage in innovation actively. It becomes a difficult task for such firms to create a space and a culture that can harness new ideas and subsequently, lead to long-term viable gains.


The challenge is to build a steady culture of creativity and innovation, which go hand-in-hand. While creativity is about the generation of novel and valuable ideas, innovation is about implementing those very ideas into new processes and products.


That said, the World Economic Forum’s research on the future of work reveals that 97% of employers view creativity as one of the most vital skills for their teams.


The best tech companies innovate.  This ensures greater customer satisfaction, higher degrees of personalized experiences, and happier associates. 


In some of the firms though, it is the leaders who are expected to cultivate a culture of innovation, where their teams are encouraged to produce inventive solutions for pressing organizational challenges.


So, how do the leaders work with the team in the trenches? What’s the approach that they need to take? 

Here’s what they need to consider:


Great ideas come from anywhere and everywhere


Everyone has immense potential to be creative. The spark is there within and comes to play on both personal and professional fronts. It’s imperative for a company, to have a culture that thrives on innovation to uplift employee morale and encourages them to bring their best ideas to work.


As a frontrunner of innovation, Walmart Global Tech provides a level-playing field to associates and leaders alike and gets their cognitive wheels turning.


Customers are our biggest source of inspiration. We constantly churn out new, innovative retail tech solutions that solve several challenges down the line. 


Incorporating a solid culture of innovation is indispensable 


It’s common to encounter cases where managers expect their teams to follow existing processes and don't necessarily want to challenge the status quo. This is because they are apprehensive of the ideas getting backfired.


As a forward-thinking organization, it is critical to rely not just on a handful of teams or people but build a culture where everyone is invited to participate freely.


Remember, innovation doesn't occur in a specific department but across different departments and processes. And having a diverse team helps to attain that goal.


A case in point is Walmart Global Tech’s flagship initiative ReSpark, which empowers women on career breaks to seamlessly transition back to work with upskilling and training programs.


We also have another initiative called empowHER, tailored for high potential women associates at mid-management, which focuses on providing them the exposure and experiences. The six-month development journey includes virtual learning labs covering a wide range of topics.

  

Our frequent tech events and seminars also get the creative juices flowing. Such initiatives ensure a culture where ideas are regularly executed at different levels.


Conducting brainstorming sessions


One of the ways to bring a shared sense of passion to your tech workforce is by scheduling brainstorming sessions consistently.


These sessions can take place within departments or between different departments. It allows associates to bounce ideas, share feedback, and make creative contributions for various scenarios.


It also helps companies facilitate a shared learning platform where teams from across the organization come together to showcase their latest innovation.


Intel’s innovation Open Lab in Ireland is an apt example of designated spaces, which helped their associates to think outside of their cubicles. It’s often the ambiance that counts, which brings forth a perspective shift. It can very well be the differentiator that a company needs.


Even though companies may have moved to a virtual way of working, the relevance of having a creative space where teams can get together, break the silos and help each other to build upon their skills can’t be neglected. 


Enabling teams to find their foothold


Let’s face it.


Associates have dissimilar peak periods when they are more productive. While some of them may feel more productive during the day, others may feel productive in the evening.


To strike a balance between these two sets of professionals, define core hours such as 9 A.M. to 3 P.M., between which they can flex. A little bit of experimentation around this leads to an environment where the team members can think freely and bring innovative ideas to the table.


It’s important to understand that innovation takes time. By giving associates the incentives to move away from the daily routine is one of the ways to excite them and test out inventive ideas. It’s all about giving them the nudge to have more creative streaks.


Encouraging with rewards


When asked what leaders could do more to improve engagement, 58% of respondents in a study replied: “give recognition.”


In the era of instant gratification, associates often tend to seek immediate recognition for their accomplishments.


Incentives for innovations work magic and increase the sense of ownership across various projects that mandate creative thinking. Pre-decide a reward for any suggestion or solution that makes an impact on your business. Remember, that the rewards that will encourage active participation from them. In addition, frequent shoutouts, vote of thanks with a personal touch go a long way in ensuring that your associates feel appreciated throughout.


The Wrap


Harnessing a culture of innovation in a tech workplace is not a one-day job. You need to build it from the ground up, ensuring that it becomes a standard norm and not just a one-off exercise. With this in place, your organization will be able to reap the benefits.


As Harvard Business Review states, 'There is nothing more satisfying than watching your people fulfill the human need to create and having their creative contributions benefit the organization and the markets it serves.'




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