How Best Workplaces across ASEAN build a culture of innovation By All

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Our fifth blog in this series on how Best Workplaces™ in ASEAN build a high-trust workplace culture covers the topic of Innovation By All. In today’s environment marked by constant change, an organization’s ability to build a high-trust culture and maximize human potential across all levels of the organization is critical for employee innovation to enable it to stay ahead of its competition.

Innovation By All

The traditional approach to organizational innovation, where only certain teams or departments are involved, is still important but no longer sufficient in today’s workplace. To succeed, companies need to seek “the wisdom of the crowd”. The insights and ideas of employees from every level of the organization must be tapped. Only when everyone’s intelligence, skills, and passion systematically generate more high-quality ideas, realize greater speed in implementation, and achieve greater agility that companies achieve a culture called Innovation By All.

Leaders play a critical role in encouraging employees to participate and contribute their unique ideas, regardless of their roles in the organization. Collaboration between leaders and their team is key. This happens when leaders genuinely seek ideas and suggestions, and involve people in decision-making — particularly around decisions that impact their jobs. Recognition is important to reinforce these behaviors, and leaders at best workplaces celebrate people who try new and better ways of doing things, regardless of the outcome.

These leaders also provide room for honest mistakes, recognizing that these are part of doing business. When employees feel that they make a difference and are treated as full members of their team regardless of their position, they become active drivers of change and innovation. They seek to continuously improve, adapt more quickly, and create game-changing opportunities. It is imperative for companies to pay attention to their employees’ innovation experiences because our research shows that companies who perform well on these metrics earn three times more than the year-on-year revenue of their peers.1

Insights across ASEAN

To assess innovation across ASEAN, we analyzed employee responses to three statements from the Trust Index™ Employee Survey. The percentage reflects the proportion of employees who have positive experiences.

We celebrate people who try new and better ways of doing things, regardless of the outcome.

Management genuinely seeks and responds to suggestions and ideas.

Management involves people in decisions that affect their jobs or work environment.

ASEAN Overall included Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
ASEAN Best refers to companies on the 2022 Best Workplaces national lists from Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.

We also analyzed responses to the question “Over the last year, how many meaningful opportunities have you had to develop new and better ways of doing things at work?” Responses were categorized as:

  • A lot
  • Some
  • Just a few
  • None

Across ASEAN, data showed that there was a significant gap between the positive response of employees who felt they had “a lot” of meaningful opportunities to innovate vs those with fewer/no opportunities. Where there were greater innovation opportunities, employees also had a consistently more positive response to the statement “Taking everything into account, I would say this is a great place to work”; conversely, where there were fewer of such opportunities, employees had poorer and more inconsistent responses.

Country Insights

Across the different countries*, employee experiences varied:

*Countries included: Indonesia (IDN), Malaysia (MY), Philippines (PH), Singapore (SG), Thailand (TH), and Vietnam (VN).

We celebrate people who try new and better ways of doing things, regardless of the outcome.

Management genuinely seeks and responds to suggestions and ideas.

Management involves people in decisions that affect their jobs or work environment.

Based on the information shared in Culture Audit submissions, we found that Best Workplaces leveraged both formal platforms (e.g. hackathons and competitions) and informal platforms (e.g. employee surveys, focus groups and regular idea generation efforts) to seek employee suggestions and ideas on areas for improvement, ways to enhance existing workflow and processes, and to recognize employees for their innovation contributions and efforts. Many embedded innovation into employees’ day-to-day work by creating safe spaces to raise feedback, be curious and experiment with new and better ways of doing things; they also intentionally provided resources and training to cultivate an innovation mindset. Leaders played an active role by dedicating time and effort to give feedback on ideas and proposals raised, mentor employees in developing solutions and overseeing ideas as they progress to fruition. In a number of cases, the end result of these innovation efforts become part of the company’s product and service offerings as well.

Innovation is at the heart of Avery Dennisons strategy – it believes that an enabling and empowering culture is key to innovation, and embeds this into its products, offerings and everything it does. In fact, Innovation is one of its core values and DNA, and it continuously works toward breaking new ground and exceeding expectations. It strives to combine imagination and intellect in the bold pursuit of solving big problems.

The company has an Innovation Playbook which describes the way Avery Dennison defines the innovation mindset and the capabilities that each employee must demonstrate at any level in the organization. At Avery Dennison Vietnam, the “Innovation energy” is cascaded across the organization through a variety of communication channels to reinforce the importance of innovation for the company; the company also offers relevant e-learning courses and targeted learning programs, and designs activities for employees to put knowledge into practice to achieve this. It also develops tools to enable teams to challenge the status quo for improvement, and cultivates a mindset where failure is regarded as a way to learn and grow stronger. Employees have access to an Innovation Dropbox to highlight problems and provide innovative ideas and solutions. These ideas are further filtered, calibrated and explored by a ground up Innovation Council, which will work with internal experts to land on an execution plan and materialize these ideas for the benefit of the company.

Avery Dennison recognizes and incentivizes innovation through awards such as the Leadership Excellence Award, APAC Awards for Innovation & Sustainability, ASEAN Circle of Excellence Awards, etc. where individuals and teams meet the relevant criteria. This conscious and holistic approach to cultivating, developing and reinforcing innovation within the workplace has resulted in a culture where innovation happens across the whole organization, in both big and small ways.

Given the nature of Ciscos business, it is no surprise that this technology leader’s approach to innovation is based on intentional action, investing in systematic practices with dedicated resources, driven by supportive leaders, and enhanced by appropriate incentives.

Its Innovate Everywhere credo enables employees at every level to participate in a wide variety of innovation challenges with attractive rewards. This has not only generated innovative products, but has also created opportunities for Cisco’s talent to grow, as explained by one employee who participated in Hack@Home during the pandemic, “It was not only about making a new innovation or a product, but also about expanding our views, learning new technologies, collaborating and learning from each other during the time when human interactions are sparse and so cherished”.

Cisco incentivized ideas that positively impact the world by adding a new track to its Innovate Everywhere Challenge for submissions addressing social and environmental issues. The company’s reverse mentoring approach, which paired younger employees with executive team members to mentor them on various topics of strategic and cultural relevance, offers opportunities for multi-domain knowledge sharing and creates meaningful change through problem-based mentoring.

Its Women’s Inventor Network program was created to increase the number of female inventors gaining patents for unique ideas. Each team is assigned a mentor with substantial experience in innovation and patent applications who can encourage, validate and help refine their ideas. The ultimate goal is to submit a patent proposal into the Cisco Patents Online system for review by subject matter experts in the various patent committees. Regardless of the outcome, all participants are given valuable feedback on their proposals on why they were accepted or the reasons why they were rejected. This program has allowed participants to journey outside of their comfort zones to move the needle in innovation while having the opportunity to work with experts they may otherwise not have engaged with.

Its commitment to an innovation mindset extends beyond its employees, as it invests in and nurtures new business ideas from early-stage entrepreneurs. This investment has seen over USD$2 million being awarded as prize money to more than 60 startups worldwide.

At Best Workplaces in ASEAN, organizations intentionally maximize human potential through effective leadership, meaningful values, and by building a foundation of trust. This enables them to enjoy a variety of invaluable benefits, including the ability to drive innovation by generating more high-quality ideas, achieving greater agility and creating a culture of Innovation By All.

Next up… Our final installment of this series will cover what we found to be special and unique about organizations’ practices and programs in Best Workplaces™ among the different countries.

Reference:

1 A Great Place to Work For All, by Michael C. Bush. Great Place to Work®. https://www.greatplacetowork.com/book

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To be eligible for the World’s Best Workplaces list, a company must apply and be named to a minimum of 5 national Best Workplaces lists within our current 58 countries, have 5,000 employees or more worldwide, and at least 40% of the company’s workforce (or 5,000 employees) must be based outside of the home country. Extra points are given based on the number of countries where a company surveys employees with the Great Place to Work Trust Index©, and the percentage of a company’s workforce represented by all Great Place to Work surveys globally. Candidates for the 2017 Worlds Best Workplaces list will have appeared on national workplaces lists published in September 2016 through August 2017.

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