“Innovate or die”, “disrupt or be disrupted”. Whereas, the importance of innovation as a strategic imperative for companies aiming to thrive in today’s rapidly changing and competitive economy has been thoroughly explored and debated, the importance of innovation for companies’ ability to attract and retain top performers is perhaps less often discussed. But it does really matter.
We all know there is a war for talent out there. At Sync Accelerator we experience first hand what Sweden’s shortage of skilled specialists means for companies in terms of lost business, reduced productivity, and existing staff under increased pressure to meet existing demand. In the Swedish tech industry, matters are particularly acute, substantiated by the forecast of the Swedish Employers’ Association for IT and Telecom that foresees a deficit of 60 000 IT specialists in 2020 unless decisive action is taken. So in this period of tech skill-scarcity, what can companies do to get better at winning this war?
Numerous studies show that companies that equip themselves with leaders that create an innovative environment in the workplace have far greater chances at retaining and attracting the best talents. This is because the very same leadership actions that help foster an innovative environment, are the same actions that tend to make employees feel professionally fulfilled and valued in the workplace; instilling a sense of common purpose, trust, team connectedness, empowerment and reward for risk-taking etc. And as employees feel trusted by – and valuable to – their colleagues and managers, they display higher levels of performance and active commitment to the organization. In this way, companies can simultaneously attract, cultivate and retain ambitious top talent.
So what is stopping companies from applying this approach? Well, when the US consultancy firm, Toffler Associates, assembled a diverse group of executives to draw some lessons learned on innovation, they found two common stumbling blocks: Firstly, the term “innovation” is commonly overused as well as misunderstood as a static thing to be created, acquired, achieved, or pursued. This understanding, they meant, encourages exactly the wrong focus and behaviors as it diminishes the real value found in understanding why people innovate and what fuels innovative cultures. Secondly, traditional organizations shaped by industrial-era business models seek growth through efficiency. These efficiency-driven corporate cultures foster “command and control” environments in which leaders are drawn into a belief that they can influence business outcomes and command the company’s fate through mainly process, structure, and governance. But the “command and control” environment fails to deliver growth as it lacks the ingredients to nurture innovation driven value. Companies that aim to solve problems and capitalize on opportunities through bureaucratic prisms of protocols, processes, and governance structures do not generate the velocity, agility, and connectedness that allow people to transform ideas into innovation. Rigid structures and linear processes that require constant oversight and frequent approval create perceptions of mistrust – resulting in a risk-adverse culture imbued with fear. Anathema to trust and risk-taking.
Sync Accelerator is a proud intrapreneurship effort, developed and harnessed within FCG SIPU. We know what to look for when we help our top performing candidates find companies that match their ambitions and professional drive. We are also fortunate to work with clients that really take the leadership and innovation seriously.
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