Workplace innovation – not just another fad

Following a conference in Estonia focussing on workplace innovation, Scottish Enterprise’s Clare Alexander asks, ‘Is your workplace innovative?’

Strong creative talent is one of the reasons Scotland has become a frontrunner in sectors including video games, film, architecture, digital, design and fashion.  Undoubtedly these industries rely on harnessing the creativity and innovation of individuals, and the importance of businesses accessing a pool of talent, with the right skills, cannot be denied.

Strong creative talent is one of the reasons Scotland has become a frontrunner in sectors including video games, film, architecture, digital, design and fashion.  Undoubtedly these industries rely on harnessing the creativity and innovation of individuals, and the importance of businesses accessing a pool of talent, with the right skills, cannot be denied.

Like all employers, firms in the creative sector develop staff through different learning routes – whether on-the-job coaching and mentoring, or more formally delivered training courses.  In a sector dominated by SMEs and with a high proportion of freelance workers, on-the-job training is common.  Supporting employers to develop the skills of the current workforce lies at the heart of the SE Workplace Innovation programme.  It is clear that Workplace Innovation is an underused resource for businesses in seeking higher levels of performance, product and service innovation and employee engagement.

Having recently established SE’s Workplace Innovation Team I was lucky enough to be invited to discuss Scotland’s approach to helping companies focus on people centred change and attended an EU-wide knowledge-sharing conference in Tallinn, Estonia.  Often dubbed ‘the Silicon Valley of Europe’, Tallinn has the highest number of start ups per person in Europe and is the birthplace of a range of international companies, including Skype.

I emphasised that Scotland has a global outlook, and is a country which upholds values of fairness and progressive people practices.  SE is working to encourage businesses to become both responsive and flexible.   Workplace Innovation is not just another ‘fad’ – it is associated with well understood practices, such as empowering  job design; self organised team working; structured opportunities for reflection, learning and improvement; high involvement innovation practices; the encouragement of entrepreneurial behaviour at all levels of an organisation; and employee representation in strategic decision-making.

At a recent Workplace Innovation Workshop run in Grangemouth we covered a range of topics including the benefits of focussing on people centred change to create a culture of leadership.  A panel of international speakers provided insight into workplace innovation best practice examples throughout the UK and Europe which included:

  • Discussion on the benefits of ‘inter-generational mentoring’ as a method of tackling skills shortages and an ageing workforce, coupled with implementation of new technology;
  • Enabling all staff to get to know the specifics of the science of production thus resulting in the creation of product improvements and new products; and providing staff ‘psychological safety’ to experiment and innovate;
  • Building a safe open forum to speak and share suggestions, ideas and insights.

One of the companies which the Scottish Enterprise Workplace Innovation team have been supporting is Blazing Griffin, an Edinburgh based games developer.  They were one of the early signatories of The Scottish Business Pledge. Their pledge recognises the company is paying the Living Wage and has no employees on zero hour contracts.  With a commitment to workforce engagement, innovation underpins their business plans to expand into North America and Asia.  As a Scottish Enterprise High Growth Start-up, Blazing Griffin, has been able to access a number of grants which have allowed them to employ an operations manager and undertake research and development work that otherwise may have been deemed too risky. Another benefit of working with Scottish Enterprise has been having access to a dedicated account manager who has supported them throughout their journey of implementing workplace innovation practices.

In an industry such as games, as in most creative endeavours, the people behind those creations are key to success. Investing in staff and building strong relationships with suppliers has always been central to Blazing Griffin’s business strategy, and this chimes very closely to the objectives of Workplace Innovation.

For information about how SE may be able to offer you workplace innovation support, please email workplaceinnovation@scotent.co.uk