Is your company actively encouraging innovation – or is innovation just a word that gets thrown around in meetings?

A study conducted by Softchoice revealed that most employees are underwhelmed by the level of innovation in their business. While most companies claim to have innovation-focused processes in place, only 37 percent of employees surveyed strongly believe they work at an innovative business. So, how can business leaders use technology to cultivate an innovative environment to empower employees and drive their organization forward?

I spoke with Erika Van Noort, senior director of strategic enablement at Softchoice, and pinpointed four technology-centric strategies businesses can use to move beyond the jargon and foster a genuine culture of innovation in their workplace.


Build Enthusiasm for Technology at the Top:

As management, the attitude you choose to take toward technology plays a significant role in how your employees perceive your business’ overall commitment to innovation. Softchoice’s study revealed, for instance, that employees who view their superiors as advocates of tech investments are four times likelier to feel their employer is innovative. By demonstrating an investment in tech, leaders implicitly communicate an interest in new ideas.

Make IT Leaders Catalysts for Innovation:

Too often, IT staffers and administrators are bogged down with help desk-related activities. These time-consuming tasks detract from IT’s ability to foster a climate of innovation. A mere 15 percent of employees say they have 20 or more hours a month to devote to innovation, and this number is likely even lower for overworked IT leaders. To mitigate this problem, companies should consider a major cloud migration. When businesses are significantly cloud-powered as opposed to on-premises, this relieves the burden on IT and allows tech experts to channel more time into building a companywide infrastructure that supports innovation.

Implement Collaboration Technology:

Effective collaboration is the fuel that powers innovation. Without programs and devices that enable employees to easily and effectively collaborate in real time, employees can quickly feel disconnected instead of inspired. Today’s collaboration applications offer a variety of features to encourage employees to work across departments, from task management to shared document generation to instant messaging. These apps are expected in many businesses, and 76 percent of employees feel their employer should make a bigger investment in technology that augments innovation. By implementing collaboration technology, businesses not only address employees’ evolving expectations, but they also support a more agile environment that will yield innovative ideas.

Challenge the Status Quo Across the Organization:

Too often, new employees feel as though they don’t have enough authority to share innovative ideas. Softchoice’s study found that only one-quarter of employees strongly feel that their company’s climate encourages them to challenge existing business norms. On top of that, 64% of employees don’t believe that valuable ideas can come from anywhere in the organization. Because a newcomer’s perspective is often the most valuable tool for fixing broken processes that seasoned employees may overlook, business leaders need to open the lines of communication throughout the organization. Encourage employees to submit new ideas through form applications or automated email surveys to encourage continuous input.

These days, innovation is emerging as a key determinant of enterprise success. In the same way that companies prioritize metrics like employee retention and annual revenue, they’re starting to actively track innovation. By bringing technology to the forefront, enterprises can take a key step toward building a climate that encourages and empowers new ideas. For businesses, a commitment to technology is an investment in innovation.