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Five ways to boost innovation and productivity

Gain a competitive edge by building a more collaborative and innovative workforce.

Innovation sets companies apart and gives them a competitive advantage.

But many companies devote most of their time and budgets keeping the lights on—which leaves little room for innovation. If your employees are buried in their daily tasks, how can they find the space they need to come up with the next big idea?

Technologies, such as cloud and AI, can streamline processes and reduce the amount of time employees spend on mundane tasks. However, transforming your company involves more than just technology; it requires a fundamental change in your corporate culture.

"Google—one of the most innovative companies in the world—allows employees to spend 20 percent of their time on side projects."

Here are five ways to boost your company’s productivity and create a culture of innovation:

1. Encourage collaboration

According to a recent study, companies that reward collaboration are up to 5.5 times more likely to be high-performing, when compared with organizations that don’t encourage collaboration.

This study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) and Babson College found collaborating with a sense of purpose is key to achieving your business goals. Instead of overwhelming employees with individual tasks, the study recommends rewarding team accomplishments.

“The lack of incentives and rewards is the most common and powerful barrier to effective collaboration. Yet, most talent management systems are designed to reward individual achievement, not team accomplishments,” according to i4cp Chief Research Officer Kevin Martin. “Finding ways to recognize and reward individuals, leaders, and teams who engage in productive collaborative behaviours can pay off in a big way.”

2. Give employees space for creativity

Google allows its employees to devote 20 percent of their time to side projects. Giving employees the freedom to play has helped Google become recognized as one of the most innovative companies in the world.

Luckily, you don’t need Google’s vast resources to boost your team’s creativity. Encourage employees to come to you with new ideas. Then, give them the space to create. If things don’t work out, understand that failure is part of the learning process.

In the words of Robert F. Kennedy, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”

3. Reward employees for a job well done

As stated in the i4cp study, incentives motivate employees to collaborate. This collaboration can lead to innovation and improved business performance.

Most companies offer their sales teams incentives for hitting their targets. However, you can achieve greater benefits when you extend incentives to other areas of your company. For example, you can offer employees a reward if, together, they complete a major project by its deadline

And the rewards don’t need to be costly. Many employees simply want recognition. You can publically recognize their achievements, take them out for a group lunch or give them gift cards to a local business. You can also reward employees who put in long hours on a project by giving them time off to recoup or organizing a fun team event for them. Then, employees will come back refreshed and ready to innovate.

4. Empower employees to work from any location

Today’s employees don’t arrive at the office at 9:00 a.m., stay at their desks all day then shut down at end of the workday.

Many employees, from executives and managers to frontline customer service staff, start the day checking their business email from home. Then, they may use their company laptop to get some work done during their commute. After they arrive at the office, they rarely sit still at their desk. Instead, they move between their workstation, conference rooms and one-to-one meetings. An average day can also include off-site meetings or personal errands, during which they rely on their mobile devices to stay connected. And they wrap up their day by responding to a few, final emails before bed.

Whether your employees spend most of their time in the office or on the road, it’s critical they have the right technologies to get the job done. For example, a mobile, cloud-based communications system will help employees do their best work from anywhere, on any device.

5. Make the most of your meetings

Employees only have a limited number of hours each day. The more time they spend in meetings, the less time they have to concentrate on important projects.

Before you ask everyone to join you at the conference table, question whether you really need to hold this meeting. For example, can you ask for a project update instead of a live meeting?

If you decide to hold a meeting, carefully consider your agenda. Are there any non-essential items you can drop? Keeping your topic list concise will keep the meeting short, but productive. Can you allow certain attendees to leave after their part is complete? If so, some attendees won’t need to sit through a 60-minute meeting if you only need them for 10 minutes.

Making your company more productive and innovative often requires a cultural shift. It’s vital to get your entire team on board—from your CEO to your newest intern. When everyone is united around a core purpose, you can empower employees to think creatively and come up with your next innovation.