Work overload greatest barrier to innovation: Survey

Engage entire team, remove red tape to boost innovation
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 04/16/2012

While organizations need an influx of fresh ideas, their efforts may be hindered as staff are often too busy juggling their day-to-day responsibilities and dealing with problems that arise, according to a recent survey by Robert Half.

Nearly one-half (49 per cent) of the 270 Canadian CFOs interviewed blamed being bogged down with daily tasks or putting out fires as the greatest barrier to their company being more innovative.

"All professionals deal with solving problems and handling daily tasks, but they also need to make setting aside time for generating new ideas a priority," said Kathryn Bolt, president of Robert Half Canada. “Managers should regularly encourage their staff to break away from their routines and develop innovative programs that will benefit the business.”

More than one-quarter (29 per cent) of respondents didn’t know what was hampering their company from being more innovative.

To inspire innovation among team, Robert Half offers the following recommendations:

•Engage the entire team: Empowered employees tend to be more innovative because they have a bigger emotional stake in the firm's success. Cultivate a culture in which staff at all levels can easily share solutions for improving the business. Maintain an open-door policy and also encourage people to offer ideas in meetings, through an internal website or even an old-fashioned suggestion box.

Remove the red tape: Examine internal processes to ensure company procedures aren't generating unnecessary red tape. Employees become disillusioned when they put their time and energy into devising ingenious ideas only to wait forever for them to be approved and implemented.

Keep it collaborative: A healthy level of competition between employees can spur innovation. But if a workplace becomes too competitive, team members may be reluctant to speak up for fear that their suggestions will either be stolen or ridiculed. Create policies that support the open exchange of information and a team-first atmosphere.

•Build a better brainstorm: Too many potentially great ideas are discarded prematurely in brainstorming meetings. Rein in the naysayers who relish in saying why novel proposals won't work.

Give them a break: Burnout does not beget brilliance. When employees are consistently overworked, they're likely to have more “uh-oh” than "a-ha!" moments. Implement programs that promote work-life balance, and consider bringing in temporary professionals during peak activity periods to keep your team fresh and focused.

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