Srikant Chellappa, President and Co-founder, Engagedly
2020 provided many companies the opportunity to make truly drastic changes. Adopting new processes, delivery models, frameworks, or even products became the deciding factor in success or defeat in the face of a global crisis. That ability to adapt and overcome also became an organizational measurement for flexibility and — more importantly — the potential for innovation.
Those organizations that were capable of adopting new ways of working, and thinking, were those that suffered the least. And as the world recovers, they will be the ones better equipped for exponential success in the future.
The ability to adapt can be hard to obtain because it requires a lack of fear for the ambiguous — of failing in unknown circumstances. Without fear of failure, companies are empowered to experiment. With experimentation comes innovation. With innovation comes solutions for problems that threaten a business.
If the transformations we’ve witnessed over the last year can show us anything, it’s that an organization’s potential to innovate internally is invaluable. To truly harness internal innovation, you must create a culture that isn’t afraid to fail — at scale.
Activate Trust for Everyone
Lacking fear of failure isn’t about making risky decisions or asking people to take on projects completely out of their comfort zone. It’s about trusting people to grow beyond their limits — even if it means they stumble a little along the way. When an organization is comfortable challenging itself to strive for excellence all the time, it will be better prepared when excellence is truly needed.
But that inclination to trust and to challenge has to come with a level of support to ensure (a) the potential for failure isn’t detrimental, (b) real growth is actually feasible and aligned with company goals, and (c) the entire organization is making an impact.
Some companies, such as Microsoft, demonstrated this by organizing an entire event dedicated to encouraging innovation. The response? Seventy thousand employees, of all roles, were inspired to contribute and share ideas in pursuit of creating something great. Counter to how other organizations have exclusive groups or teams dedicated to fresh ideas, Microsoft’s approach was inclusive. The results were so positive that it inspired the company to repeat this process annually.
The truth is, most organizations don’t need a large production — like a Hackathon or other innovation event — to source great ideas or be ready to flex in difficult times. But they do need some type of system to activate the trust being placed in employees to bring their best. That way, companies can strategically push individuals to reach further while providing support to help them get there.
Connecting for Impact
The rise of remote work has given digital tools the opportunity to better facilitate company-wide shifts with much better success than before. Today, enabling internal innovation at all levels of the organization is a matter of selecting the right platform. When it comes to creating the opportunity for growth and innovation — by giving employees the room to fail — modern performance management platforms can support in the following ways:
● Establishing alignment —
Business growth is limited by the number of individuals providing value.
To have the greatest impact, individual performance needs to be aligned with the broader organization’s strategy. Otherwise, the company risks making strides in the wrong direction and creating waste.
The right platform will help to create alignment by making it easy to set employee goals that are challenging and can be measured. Using a platform to establish OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) gives leadership the ability to create goals for individuals, teams, and departments that ladder up to overall company objectives.
For goals to be effective, they need to be challenging and personalized to an employee’s individual skills. By taking into account personal interests, existing competencies, and aspirations, goals can be set to help employees reach new heights.
Performance management tools must give employees the ability to communicate the impact they want to have with individual profiles and give leadership opportunities to apply those desires to the company strategy.
● Creating visibility — Digital tools within a platform provide better transparency into goals that have been set and how progress toward those goals is pushing company objectives forward. When the entire company has a means of easily accessing information about each employee's goals, the ability to support multiplies.
For example, managers can look into individual or team progress with a few clicks and provide instant feedback — or ask an employee if they need help. As individuals make progress, they have a centralized space to share learns or best practices with colleagues who may be working on similar goals.
A sophisticated system can even prompt users to take actions, such as schedule 1:1s or retro meetings to discuss their approach or blockers, and help notify leadership to check in at a consistent cadence. By connecting everyone, moments of innovation can cascade across the organization in real time.
● Enabling continuous growth — With growth comes the development of new skills and abilities. A culture of innovation must be supported with opportunities to learn and apply knowledge. With an integrated LMS (Learning Management System), a performance management platform can provide instant access to custom learning content to accelerate professional development.
By being accessible within the performance management platform, the system can identify courses or training based on individual employee goals or competencies. Additionally, the ability to share suggested learning content with others in the platform enhances growth by encouraging a culture of learning across the company. Gaining new skills gives employees the confidence to face challenges without fear and provide more value as they grow.
Dire circumstances forced many organizations to make uncomfortable changes in the last year. As a result, many ended up growing stronger and more capable than ever. The key was being unafraid to challenge themselves to think differently, despite the risk of failure.
Today, technology is equipped to help organizations better implement new strategies and see them through to success. With the right platform, companies can achieve organizational alignment, create visibility, and foster continuous growth to support a new level of performance — and move forward into the future without fear.