Employers who want to get higher levels of discretionary effort from their employees and all the awesome side effects that come along with it, such as higher morale, loyalty, productivity and innovation, need to face reality. Achieving higher employee effort doesn’t come from doing the same old, same old, or what has become habit. Instead, it comes from creating an exciting employee experience, having a higher purpose for societal good, building trust, and developing a collaborative culture of innovation.

Why innovation? Because the status quo of extreme cost cutting, or plodding incremental growth, is a dangerous business strategy. In today’s fast-paced, global, digital, multi-cultural business world, if you don’t innovate, you will be overrun by the competition or the industry disruptor who does. Research shows that companies that innovate significantly lead their domain in financial performance.[i]

Start-ups can be excellent at innovation. We can all relate to successful start-ups, such as Google, PayPal, Tesla, Work Day and so on. But, they can also fail – in fact, 90% of all start-ups fail! Innovation is not limited to start-ups. Mature, mid-sized and large companies can be innovative, without resorting to an endless march of mergers and acquisitions, of which 70% fail.[ii]  Instead, companies can be innovative by having a higher purpose for their organization, taking a multi-stakeholder view of the business, and creating a collaborative culture of innovation.

How do you create an exciting employee experience?

First, executives need to own it and embrace it. Human Resources can’t do it alone, and it shouldn’t have to.  Executives need to speak to the organization’s mission and higher level purpose, not just the financial measures that Wall Street requires every quarter. Executives need to value their employees and have a talent management mindset. There are many examples of companies with a higher purpose, such as Google: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Or, Medtronic: “Contributing to human welfare by the application of biomedical engineering to alleviate pain, restore health and extend life.” Or, Recology, an urban garbage collector and recycler that has embraced ecology: “A world without waste.”

The next step is for executives to create a transparent and trusting business environment.  Every employee should know the mission and purpose of the company, the company’s key business strategies, focus areas for innovation, the strength of the competition, and feedback from customers, suppliers, and external collaborators. Companies can’t have a strong sense of purpose and collaborative cultures of innovation without transparency and trust.

Third, executives need to invest in the development of their innovation capital and employee skills. This investment is usually not expensive. Employee learning begins with onboarding and should be ongoing, especially for innovative companies. Learning systems need to include: digital learning, learning circles, coaching and mentoring, challenging new assignments, and timely classroom training. Learning works best when executives are involved in the learning experience.

Fourth, create an environment that promotes questioning, ideation, the elimination of silos, and knowledge management. That is, a process to assess innovative ideas, run controlled experiments, get customer and external expert feedback, and assess which innovative ideas to pursue and commercialize. Many companies have set fine examples, such as long-time innovation stalwart 3M.  3M has a culture that no employee should have to ask more than three people for an answer.  Also, it is expected that technology experts will work with employees on their innovative ideas.

Finally, provide employees and teams with ongoing performance and development feedback. Innovative companies strongly promote breaking down the functional barriers and silos, hierarchy, and politics that stymie teams. They align performance management to reward ideation, collaboration and getting results.

This is the new model for talent management in today’s multi-cultural, fast paced, digital, disruptive, global world. It begins with executives embracing trust and transparency, promoting a sense of higher purpose, and creating a collaborative culture of innovation.

Are you headed down this path?  Join the discussion.

Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting and is a Managing Partner of InnovationOne. He consults on talent management, leadership development and coaching, innovation, and other strategic initiatives. Please e-mail Victor at victorassad6@gmail.com or visitwww.victorhrconsultant.com. For innovation visit www.InnovationOne.

[i] C. Brooke Dobni “The relationship between innovation orientation and organizational performance,” International Journal of Innovation and Learning, Vol. 10, No. 3, 2011; and Booz and Company Innovation Study, 2010.

[ii] Clayton M. Christensen, Richard Alton, Curtis Rising, and Andrew Waldeck (March 2011) “The Big Idea: The New M&A Playbook,” Harvard Business Review. Found at https://hbr.org/2011/03/the-big-idea-the-new-ma-playbook