Nurture A Culture Of Innovation Through Professional Development Training

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Developing a culture of innovation in your startup may seem intuitive: if our startup itself is innovative, don’t we inherently have a culture of innovation? Not quite.

At the heart of any startup company is a culture of innovation. To succeed in a highly competitive market, a startup company needs to have important characteristics of innovation: the courage to try new things, the willingness to fail, and the enthusiasm to continuously evolve and grow. While startups are innovative by nature when they first take off, maintaining a cruising altitude of high innovation requires the help of professional development training.

The most recent report from proves that learning and development training can have a big impact: they found that companies with executives highly engaged in L&D are three-times more likely to say their company has a culture of innovation. They spoke exclusively with L&D professionals at Bayer, EY, Bonobos, and CyberCoders who are working to grow and maintain high levels of innovation in their companies.

Boost innovation in your own company by following the examples of companies who are unafraid to take risks and who always support the strengths and ideas of their employees.

#1 Idea-Sharing

Just as your startup needed a little TLC when in its infancy, a bright idea can be extinguished if it’s not nurtured by colleagues and managers. Encouraging idea-sharing among your team and even across organizations should be a priority in any innovation strategy.

The L&D team at CyberCoders, a leading permanent placement recruiting firm, aims to make this possible through their Associate Recruiter Incubator Program. Geared towards new employees and combining intensive education with mentoring, their program ensures that all employees have the skills they need to excel in the tech industry. “For this program, my team and I hire, manage, train, and ramp up individuals that have no prior sales or recruiting experience,” says Dani Chang, Training Manager at CyberCoders.

New recruits are trained for a period of eight weeks and upon graduation are put into teams based on their management style. “This has greatly contributed to a culture of idea-sharing and cohesiveness. Once on teams, they are exposed to new techniques from their managers and teammates,” Chang says. Training employees who come from diverse backgrounds means that fresh ideas are hatched and grown in-house and are shared organically throughout the team.

#2 Risk-Taking

For pharmaceutical giant Bayer, innovation is all about risk-taking. Despite their immense global success and status as a household name, they understand that innovation is a continuous process. With so many effective L&D methods and mediums, it’s important to think outside the box and to never be afraid of re-calibrating based on results.

Bayer’s Head of US Learning & Talent Development, Karen Bicking, piloted an action learning program for the pharmaceutical side of the company in 2018. The effect this had was almost immediate. “We took some leaders and they delivered work on projects that were outside of their normal space,” she says.

“They gained experience beyond their regular role and gained exposure to senior leaders. We’ve seen a great outcome from that with a number of them being promoted already even though the program has just concluded.” Since not every experiment will yield such great results, it’s important to continuously evaluate and monitor feedback in order to find the best path towards innovation.

#3 Strong Support System

As your startup begins to grow and develop, it will benefit immensely from an environment that makes employees feel like their ideas are listened to, considered, and supported. Don’t limit the innovation to the founders of the company. Instead, acknowledge that every new employee has something important to contribute and can use their unique strengths to improve the company even more.

This is the idea behind the L&D strategy at Bonobos, the first digitally native vertical brand. The brand’s Director of Employee Experience, Tiffany Poppa, says focusing on employees’ individual strengths has been key to creating a culture of innovation. “Focusing on strengths creates trust; it creates a safe space to try something and possibly fail, have a conversation about it, and move forward.”

For Bonobos, innovation is just a by-product of their culture that prioritizes relationship-building and trust between employees and managers over learning hard skills. “Our strengths-based approach has effectively fostered a culture of collaboration and open communication because it celebrates the individual,” Tiffany Poppa says.

“Focusing on what’s right with people makes for an inclusive environment where people can openly express themselves, their ideas, and even their challenges.”

Developing a culture of innovation in your startup may seem intuitive: if our startup itself is innovative, don’t we inherently have a culture of innovation? In fact, the professional development efforts of industry leaders to boost innovation proves that it’s a never-ending process. While it’s never too late to encourage a culture of innovation in your company, startups can benefit from strong innovation efforts from the beginning. They key is to acknowledge and support the strengths of all employees, to open the door to idea sharing, and to help them be unafraid of taking risks because sometimes those risks can really pay off.




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