When on the hunt for new ideas and innovations, business leaders sometimes overlook a key component: Your team needs the space and resources to get those creative juices flowing.
So we turned to Tom Daly, president of Benefit Administration Group in New Orleans, which helps midsized businesses with HR and benefits support, for tips on practical changes a company can make to clear the path for innovative minds in the office.
There’s so much technology out there — from online services to full software suites helping with time tracking, project management and payroll — that it can be intimidating to try to figure out which services to leverage to your advantage. But leverage you must, Daly says, if you want to free up staff from tedious administrative tasks.
Innovation isn’t just for the attention-grabbing ideas. It’s also found in the processes that make your company work efficiently on the inside and look like a well-oiled machine on the outside.
“Companies start growing and they find that they need to hire more people down the road when they are drowning in all these administrative tasks,” Daly says. “You want to eliminate some of the have-to-dos to get back to the want-to-dos.”
Before you start setting ambitious goals for your team to tackle innovative ideas, understand your company’s capabilities. You might not have the resources to see those ideas to fruition without hiring more employees — and innovation is most definitely a group assignment.
Quality suffers when projects aren’t meaningfully and feasibly planned out.
Daly says it’s also important to understand why your employees came to work for you in the first place. Some of them may have jumped ship from a bigger company because they wanted the personal relationships and opportunities to shine at a midsize or smaller company.
“Solutions that are an appropriate fit for a 1,000-employee company might not work for a smaller business,” he says.
When your team sees room for growth and opportunities to gain experience, you’ve created the right conditions for idea generation.
Recognizing and rewarding good work, as well as encouraging feedback, all seem like no-brainers to create an environment where people take ownership and want to be part of the action. But not enough businesses realize those habits need to be formalized, Daly says.
He says he recently was on a panel at a Louisiana business conference where the topic turned to employee retention. While the panel members came from a variety of industries, Daly says, “the common thread was that you should have a plan to both get and keep good employees — and that needs to manifest itself into some kind of process system.”
It shouldn’t just be an unspoken strategy from the top, but a mapped-out action plan across management when recruiting, hiring and evaluating candidates and employees — all aimed at sustaining the perfect team.
Many businesses Daly works with have updated that process over time to suss out what works and what doesn’t in developing a team that can truly harness its creative output. “Those processes can become stale,” he says. “It’s not something you can just set and it works on its own. It has to be a constant conversation.”