This article is part three of a series – you can also read part one and part two on our blog.

Part III: Creating a culture of openness and trust.

When discussing culture, we talk about specific observable patterns or behaviors within the workplace. It’s a combination of a vision, processes, and practices implemented by the organization. This article will explain why all those elements must take into account innovation and how to communicate its value internally. We’ll also look into the psychological aspect of building a culture of innovation.

The importance of communication

We’ve already mentioned how important leadership is to creating an innovative culture. The example comes from the top, so if people in leadership positions don’t show appreciation for innovation or, even worse, express any signs of discouragement towards it, employees won’t see it as an essential factor in their individual and the company’s development. That should be avoided at all costs, and that’s one of the reasons why effective communication is crucial.

Various aspects of communication

Communication can serve multiple purposes. On the one hand, it’s essential for the management to communicate the company’s vision, expectations, plans, and goals. To be clear, set the direction for the whole team and avoid confusion regarding tasks and responsibilities. At the same time, it’s necessary to make the workplace a space where open dialogue between colleagues is encouraged and elements of an innovative culture are freely discussed. This should happen on many levels – in both official communication and one-on-one conversations, both more and less formal. 

At Innovatika, we practice both forms – we hold biweekly meetings where the whole team gathers, but we also discuss the innovative elements of our work individually. It’s vital to us to ensure that everyone feels encouraged to speak up. We advise implementing this practice in your company to ensure that everyone within the organization understands their roles, activities, and the part that innovation plays in their work. You will also want to check if what people do aligns with their vision for the organization. 

Open dialogue also means allowing employees to express their ideas, views, and even discontent freely and without repercussions. Attachment to the opinions and statements arbitrarily imposed by the management stifles the freedom of thinking and, thus, innovation.

Trust as a building block of innovation

Of course, this kind of dialogue would only be possible with a culture of trust. Only in a trusting environment do people feel comfortable enough to share. Trust is also essential when your organization is still in the process of making innovation the basis of its work culture. The transformation takes time, so you must ensure that employees believe in your determination to create an improved company culture.

At Innovatika, we take care of trust-building through transparency – we share information, even if it’s not positive. We speak clearly about the decision-making processes and the data we base our conclusions on. This applies to the board, the managers, and the employees, who all have the space to share their thoughts, ask questions or speak freely. 

Promoting diversity and interdisciplinarity

Communication is also about discouraging silos. What we mean by that is actively supporting cross-functional cooperation and encouraging diversity. Only then do we have a chance to build a sense of togetherness and gain different perspectives on the challenges faced. 

Team interdisciplinarity is crucial for us at Innovatika. As we build new products, we work with different people and get to know various perspectives that allow us to notice new approaches to the problem at hand. Moreover, we strive to inspire each other. 

Ensuring the psychological safety

By now, you can already see that various elements of culture and behaviors go hand in hand – trust, communication, transparency, and vision are all intertwined building blocks of innovation in the workplace. We touched upon the importance of psychological well-being in the organization’s transformation process. It’s something that can’t be ignored. The feeling of safety lets people go outside of their comfort zones and increases productivity and morale. So if you notice any lack of enthusiasm, signs of favoritism, or unwillingness to share ideas in your team, or if you struggle with a high staff turnover, take a closer look at the level of support you provide to the employees. 

In our company, we promote experimentation and tolerance for potential mistakes. We also reward commitment and taking the initiative. The simplest and most important thing is to express gratitude and show appreciation. At Innovatika, this takes place at company-wide status meetings, during which we award each other on the forum with Respect (a variation of Kudo Cards by Jurgen Appelo). On a day-to-day basis, we notice and support a course of action indicating that a person wants to do things their way, try new approaches, experiment, and get involved above all. 

Discussing needs and satisfaction

Ultimately, it boils down to treating people with respect, being attentive to their emotions, and listening to their needs. At Innovatika, in addition to daily conversations, we ask employees to complete the satisfaction survey we conduct twice a year. We ask about various aspects of their daily work and allow them to speak anonymously about company life. We always publish the results and discuss them with the whole team. Based on the collected responses and suggestions, we develop an action plan. We choose the most frequently emerging issues that align with our mission, vision, and values.

What indicators are taken into account? When conducting satisfaction surveys, it is worth considering numerical data in addition to precious qualitative data. At Innovatika, this is the well-known ENPS, or Employee Net Promoter Score. This is nothing more than an indicator of how much our employees are willing to recommend our organization to their friends as a workplace. 

We know that we can measure some aspects of culture, such as employee satisfaction, but the question is…

What can you do to measure innovation culture as a whole? 

In the past, it has been described as an impossible task, but the good news is that you can measure the culture of innovation. In fact, what we do at Innovatika, is a great starting point because the evaluation process is about assessing the components or attributes of culture, and the most efficient way to do it is by surveying employees. These are some of the aspects you can evaluate:

  • Psychological safety
  • Transparency
  • Empathy
  • Openness to diversity
  • Tolerance for failure

But also:

  • The strategy for the future
  • Available resources for work and development
  • Risk-taking strategy
  • The way of providing feedback

Notably, after assessing these factors, you cannot rest on your laurels. Innovation culture in the workplace is not built once – it’s constantly evolving and adapting to the environment, market, and employee needs. So once you have your evaluation results, even if the score is high and your company looks pretty innovative, take action to monitor those aspects continuously and improve innovative culture attributes where necessary. This is what we do at Innovatika, and this is the practice we encourage you to implement. Talk to us if you want to learn about our approach or compare experiences.