The term “innovation” is used to refer to the general characteristics of bleeding-edge companies, like Google, Apple and Boston Dynamics. But now the term is also being applied increasingly to the employment sector and has become something of a buzz word.
Unemployment in Ireland is currently hitting record lows as the economy provides for more and more people. It seems that there are more opportunities than ever before for people to earn good salaries and make a productive living. In this environment, employers are looking for candidates who can help them push the needle and offer ideas that will not only allow their business to operate with excellence but also become a hotbed of original thinking.
The need for innovation is increasing. Employers want people who can help their firms better adapt to changing market conditions. It’s no longer enough to employ people who function in “a role” – there’s a need for dynamic individuals who take the initiative and come up with novel solutions to hitherto intractable business problems. Companies need people who can help lift them out of the quagmire and onto a plain of higher profitability.
What Is Innovation?
Being a bit of a buzz word, it’s hard to pin down EXACTLY what employers mean when they use the term innovation. But given the skills that they increasingly want to see in employees, we can take a pretty good guess.
In essence, innovation is all those future-facing skills that only humans can provide, and which are rare in today’s economy. We’re talking about complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, the ability to manage others effectively, and emotional intelligence. Innovation is the set of skills that a person can use to overcome non-standard, non-procedural problems that a company may face.
Okay, so that might sound a little abstract. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.
First, imagine a company that wants to expand into new markets overseas. No amount of automation or digitalisation is going to make the transition to a new market easier or more profitable. The key to gaining a new market presence is in understanding the target market and then using advertising expertise to make it happen.
This is where an innovative employee can come in handy. An innovative employee will view the problem of breaking into a new target market as a creative problem, not a procedural one. They will see it as their job to come up with a marketing strategy that will appeal to a local audience and won’t assume that repeating what’s been done elsewhere will work in the new location too. They’ll observe, ponder and eventually come up with a solution that is specific to your objectives, potentially saving you a fortune in the process.
Why Is Innovation So Important?
The world of work is changing fast. Firms are coming to recognise that they are no longer combinations of labour and capital, churning out products, but agencies directly engaged in creative processes trying to outcompete their peers. It’s not so much about who can achieve the lowest cost any more (though this is still the case in some industries), but who can best think their way to optimal solutions.
Innovation is becoming increasingly crucial in giving companies their competitive edge.
Innovation Boosts Engagement
The polling company Gallup recently discovered that more than 63 per cent of employees do not feel engaged by their work at all while in the workplace. A lack of workplace engagement leads to lower rates of satisfaction and productivity and higher turnover. Companies that promote innovation, however, keep employees on their toes and foster an atmosphere of personal growth and development, boosting staff retention.
Innovation Cuts Down On Waste
When employees are asked what costs the most time at work, it’s usually “snags” and “putting out fires.” Innovative employees don’t just run around aimlessly from one problem to the next but work out systems which help to prevent fires from starting in the first place. Innovation, therefore, can help firms cut down on waste by optimizing both the human and technical sides of the firm.
Innovation Improves Market Performance
Some companies can thrive in a wide range of competitive markets. One of the reasons for this is their ability to continually innovate and predict what the market will want in the future. Innovative employees rely heavily on data to make decisions about the future.
How To Spot An Innovative Candidate
Knowing that your firm should hire innovative people is one thing, but finding them is quite another. Here’s how we think you can spot an innovative candidate at PRL Recruitment.
Innovative People Love Big, High-Risk Goals
Innovation involves a degree of risk taking. You never find out whether something is better than the status quo unless you try it. This is something that marks innovative people apart from everyone else: their willingness to shoot for the stars and try something new. The most innovative people in an organisation put their professional reputation on the line because they believe that there’s a better way of doing things.
Low-innovation individuals, by contrast, would rather carry on doing things as they’ve always been done.
Innovative People Can Talk About How They Solved Problems In Detail
If you’re trying to find innovative people, you need to probe people on the finer details of how they solved particularly tricky problems in previous roles. Creative people love solving problems because it’s an opportunity for them to flex their intellectual muscles and think a little outside of the box.
People who truly oversaw the solution to a problem can talk about it in exquisite detail. They can tell you exactly what they did to overcome the issues that their organisation faced and describe the challenges that came along with it. They should be able to talk about how they addressed the problem, and the issues they faced getting help from the broader organisation.
Innovative People See Their Place In The Future
Finally, innovative people can see where industries are heading, and their role within them several years into the future. It’s a good idea, therefore, to ask candidates where they expect to see themselves in three to five years.