Creating a Working, Learning and Innovative Environment

A working, learning and innovative environment is critical to our companies’ profitability and for employee retention.  Studies have shown that organizations are not structured for how employees work or learn.  Most companies have manuals that attempt to demonstrate how their employees should do their jobs; however, manuals do not account for every possible work situation that presents a challenge.  In case of a challenge, employees create their own undocumented work-arounds.  In this age of rapid technological changes, processes are difficult to document in real time.  As soon as its documented, it is outdated.

Some employees follow the detailed manual that is produced by the company; however, people learn in different ways.  Some learn by doing; others learn by looking at pictures, while others learn by watching.  Companies do not have enough employees to deliver one-on-one hands-on training for each person who needs it.  Therefore, the person who learns by doing will be challenged if there are not enough resources for them to shadow.  Unless you have a training department, there is also not enough time in the day for an employee to focus on training while getting their job done.  Now, the company has two unproductive employees during the training period.

For learners who need to follow a structured manual format, all processes are not documented and that creates a cap in their learning.  Additionally, if a process is documented incorrectly, the learner will now have the wrong way of doing the job.  Most manuals are devoid of graphics, so the learner who assimilates by viewing will have shortcomings.

If an employee is busy learning and working on the business, when can that employee find time to innovate?  A company can innovate by creating small task forces to enable employees to work together and create new processes, giving way to new ideas for products and services.  This format bridges the gap with challenges presented for the worker and learner.  It draws from the experiences of a broader more diverse subset of employees.

Too often companies do not have the luxury of time or resources to give employees what is needed to truly “try something different” during the discovery phase.  At the same time, organizational goals must be met.  This creates stress for the employee.

Suggested solutions are:

  1. Focus on one or two key initiatives during the year so task force members can have time to do their jobs while working towards a new company goal, product or service
  2. Hire consultants or a temporary team to deliver new ideas or outsource R&D
  3. Adjust the time frame and mindset for innovation – instead of a “do-it-now” mentality, focus on a “getting-it-right” one

All the above, of course, becomes is difficult in our daily routines of being profitable, meeting shareholder goals and trying to win in the marketplace.

What are your suggestions to align a collaborative organization with employees’ efforts?