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Guest Blog: Driving innovation with L&D

Many companies want to establish a culture of innovation, one that encourages flexibility, creativity and supports risk-taking. The benefit? breakthrough products, a superior customer experience and a nimble response to market challenges.

But what is happening in organisations today, and what can HR do – specifically the L&D (learning and development) function – in not only supporting, but also driving, a culture of innovation? The 2019 US L&D Report highlights some of the latest trends that companies are already applying.

Be flexible

The aim of a HR/L&D team is to adjust to continuous organizational changes without compromising either the speed or quality of talent development strategies. An overly-planned L&D program is less likely to adapt with any changes in business strategy, so don’t be afraid to stray from your schedule and remain flexible when business needs a shift. This also means that for innovation to occur, your program needs to tailor itself to the individualized present (and future) need of employees.

Create a safe space for risks and ideas

Innovation happens when employees feel free to take risks without repercussions. Focusing on employees’ individual strengths has been key to creating a culture of innovation. Focusing on strengths creates trust; it creates a safe space to try something and possibly fail, have a conversation about it, and move forward. For many organizations, innovation is a byproduct of their culture that prioritizes relationship-building and trust between employees and managers over learning hard skills.

Having engaged and committed leaders who can encourage this culture is key. It comes as no surprise that leadership and management skills are in high demand at organizations that are leading the innovation charge.

Hand-in-hand with creating an environment where risks can happen without repercussion, encouraging idea-sharing between colleagues on all levels of the organization will also propel innovation. The takeaway? Create programs that allow employees to cultivate their individual strengths while building relationships with others on the team. Where there’s support, there’s innovation – and trust needs to exist between team members for innovation to flourish.

Experiment (and then recalibrate)

Innovation comes from risk-taking. But since there are so many effective mediums and methods to deliver learning in 2019, it’s important to think outside the box and beyond traditional learning – and to never be afraid of recalibrating based on results. It’s vital to carry out evaluations and continuously monitor feedback in order to produce and develop the most innovation-driving programs.

Evaluation and recalibration are at the heart of world-leading innovation initiatives. Through surveys, focus groups, or other evaluations, it’s crucial to determine which programs work, which can be optimized, and which should be scrapped. Even more critical, however, is that you cultivate a working environment where employees can question current processes without repercussion. In a space where there’s mutual trust, reflection can grow into innovation.

Connect L&D and innovation

You could plan great L&D initiatives and hope that it sparks innovation company-wide, or you could be even more proactive. Planning programming around the concept of innovation might include a speaker series with innovators in your industry, a course on design thinking, or hack-a-thons where employees get to take a step back from their daily duties and focus on what could be improved at the company.

Written and Contributed by // EMG – Education Media Group

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