Understanding workplace innovation key to making better use of human talents and skills

Eurofound publishes report exploring workplace innovation practices in Europe.

Workplace innovation measures (WPI) are emerging as a strong driving force to transform workplaces to make better use of human talents and skills while sharpening innovation and improving competitiveness. However, there is a need for greater clarity about what policymakers can do to stimulate WPI. Eurofound’s new report on ‘Workplace innovation in European companies’ provides an understanding of why and how WPI is implemented in companies and organisations. The report will be presented to European social policy-makers and practitioners in Leuven, Belgium today.

Workplace innovation (WPI) is a developed and implemented practice or combination of practices which enables employees to participate in organisational change and renewal and hence improve the quality of working life and organisational performance. This report looks at reasons for enabling WPI, adoption and implementation, and impact on organisation and management, employees and employee representatives. The research is based on 51 companies identified in Eurofound’s third European Company Survey (ECS 2013), all with substantial WPI practices.

The report found that the primary organisational drivers to introduce WPI practices in European companies are to improve efficiency, gain competitive advantage and enhance innovative capability. While it is clear that the main reason for introducing WPI is economic and business-related, most practices (69%) target both goals of enhancing company performance and improving quality of working life.

The report outlines five distinguished types of WPI practices in European companies. Some 14% of the company cases were WPI practices oriented towards the structure of work, for example, job autonomy, teamwork, and employment budget control. 20% are WPI practices oriented towards culture, such communication, consultation and social dialogue. The third type contains practices that combine elements of both orientation and culture. The fourth type cover HR-related practices, which account for 39%, and include personnel recruitment, training, competency development, performance appraisal, working conditions, remuneration, flexibility, and health, risk and safety measures. The last type of intervention, accounting for 8%, are related, to introduction of IT systems or technology.

The report also finds that management usually takes the initiative to innovate in work organisation, and the involvement of employees follows quickly in order for any initiative to be successful.

‘We found that workplace innovators seem to naturally align themselves with employee interests, and as a result there are gains for both the organisation as a whole and the employees,’ says Stavroula Demetriades, senior program manager at Eurofound. ‘Those gains can be higher employee engagement, performance, greater learning opportunities, interesting, challenging jobs, and longer term sustainability.’

The authors of the report argue that there is an urgent need for new thinking on how European and national policy can help to shape more productive and healthier workplaces through WPI in much of Europe. As a starting point, it proposes that EU governments and other stakeholders would do well to consider the creation of a ‘Forum on the Workplace of the Future’, with a strong focus on the contribution of worker participation, work organisation and job design in securing innovative, productive and healthy workplaces.

Read the full report at http://bit.ly/WPIEC2015

For Eurofound’s new Spotlight on win-win practices, click here www.eurofound.europa.eu/news/spotlight-on/win-win-practices

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The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working conditions (Eurofound) is a tripartite European Union Agency, whose role is to provide knowledge in the area of social and work-related policies.

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