Employee Innovativeness in the organization

Employee Innovativeness in the organization

Due to a rapidly changing economic environment and globalization and challenges emerging because of them, it has become of uttermost importance to enhance the profitability and productivity of the organization. Being inflexible and not adaptable to change is a step towards disaster for an organization.

With the increasing competing demands due to globalization, organizations are becoming responsive to the pressures of competition. These pressures are forcing the organizations to become efficient, effective and innovative. The rapidly changing environment spurs organizations to constantly innovate as a means of surviving and competing against strong rivals and uncertainties. Embracing innovation is undeniably an indispensable part of the organizational long term strategy, which targets the attainment of unique capabilities, economic growth, and realizing continuous competitive advantages.

In the face of unprecedented economic, social, and technological development, the organization which does not embrace creativity and innovation for success and growth, fails to create conditions for sustainable growth and for meeting the demographic and environmental challenges. Innovation is critical for the organization to achieve the competitive advantages. Without employee innovativeness, it is very difficult for the organization to meet the requirements of the sustainable growth and the demographic and environmental challenges.

An innovation is an idea, practice, or object which is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption and adoption is the decision to make full use of an innovation as the best course of action available. Hence, an adopter is to be distinguished from an innovator. Adopters aim at ‘doing things better’, whereas innovators aim at ‘doing things differently’ and the innovator is more likely, in the pursuit of change and to reconstruct the problem. Implementation occurs when an employee, or other decision-making person, puts an innovation into practice. This suggests that an innovation is any product or process which has been implemented and is non-trivial to the organization. Hence, improvement is a dimension to the innovation since innovation is the ‘change which creates a new dimension in the performance in the organization. However, innovation initiatives are mainly dependent on the innovative behaviour of human capital of the organization.

Innovation is derived from the Latin word ‘innovare’ which means to make something new in a complex situation. Innovation is the multi-stage process whereby the organization transforms ideas into new / improved products, services, or processes, to advance, compete and differentiate itself successfully in the market. Further, innovation includes both small incremental changes in the activities as well as radical discoveries and breakthroughs. The process of innovation is commencing with idea generation, and then proceeding to promotion of the idea leading to the implementation of the idea.

Employee innovative work behaviour is a deliberate behaviour of the employees in the workplace to offer new ideas, develop new services / products, and establish new processes and procedure in their departments, or in the whole organization. In fact, innovativeness is the exploration of opportunities, generation, promotion, and implementation of ideas at the workplace. Innovators are onlookers of opportunities to crave for their creative appetite. They come up with new solutions. They promote their ideas and try to gain the support and develop teams. The process completes with the implementation of the ideas after testing, modification, and commercialization. Also, innovativeness is everything from the modification of routines or using fresh remedies, to the simplification of work, and to the service improvement to the end user. Innovative employees engage in any or a combination of these activities at any given time.

Organizational innovation is dependent on the innovativeness of its employees which in turn is dependent on innovativeness of individual employee. Innovations reflect the creative efforts of the employees. Thus, it is the employees who build, promote and breathe life into an innovative culture of the organization. The innovative potential of the organization resides in the knowledge, skills and abilities of its employees. Employee innovativeness in the workplace is the foundation of a high performance organization. This is obvious as the base of a knowledge economy where intangible assets are commodities which play an ever more significant role in the organization, such as abilities to enhance competitiveness by ‘doing more with less’.

With the changing environment, employees’ value for innovation has become more evident and the organization now cannot afford to ignore the tacit knowledge of the employees which can include technical and operational knowledge. In the present competitive environment, a large number of the organizational managements adhere to the belief that every employee has some level of potential for innovation and that employee innovativeness is a key source for the competitiveness of the organization. . However, the preconditions in an organization can effectively limit employees’ potential for innovativeness and hence, it is necessary for the organizational management to establish the conditions in the organization for successfully utilizing the employees for innovation.

There is no universally accepted definition of innovation. Innovativeness, creativity, and innovation are all related concepts which are frequently being used interchangeably. One of the definitions of innovation states that it is related to the introduction of a new product, process, method, or system. Scientific problems and hunches and existing knowledge give birth to new ideas which then feed the beginnings of other innovative explorations.

All the definitions of innovativeness include the element of ‘newness’. Newness does not necessarily mean that the idea is to be new to the world. In terms of employee innovativeness, it refers to anything which is new to the particular situation of the organization. However, employee innovativeness can range from (i) incremental to radical innovations, (ii) from administrative to technical innovations, and (iii) from soft innovations to hard innovations. Whichever the aspect of innovativeness employees engages in, the problem arises that how the innovativeness among employees can be enhanced.

Employee innovativeness can be defined as an engagement in the innovative work behaviours, which includes behaviours related to the innovation process, i.e. idea generation, idea promotion, and idea realization with the aim of producing innovations. Innovations which have to do with the implementation or adoption of the new ideas can in turn be categorized as either technological (changes in products, services, production processes) or administrative (changes in activities, social processes, structures), and as either radical or incremental, depending on the extent of their influence for existing products or processes. Employee innovativeness can thus be examined throughout the innovation process, from the initial idea generation to product development and eventually to product commercialization, or to the adoption of new processes or structures in the organization.

Innovativeness can also be defined as the intentional introduction and application within a role, group or organization of ideas, processes, products or procedures, new to the relevant unit of adoption, designed to significantly benefit the employee, the group, the organization or wider society. Innovation is described as the process of engaging in behaviours designed to generate and implement new ideas, processes, products, and services.

However, behavioural thinkers define Innovation as a mindset, which is influenced by beliefs, values, and behaviour. It is the process of engaging in behaviours designed to generate and implement new ideas, processes, products, and services, regardless of the ultimate success of these new phenomena. Many of the dimensions in well-known models of the innovation process are tied to the behaviours, actions, and personalities of the employees, or actors, engaged in the initial, creative steps (invention) as well as the latter steps of exploitation. Innovation is a cognitive process which involves the thoughts, associated feelings and ways of thinking of the innovator which are expressed in their innovative behaviour.

Creativity is a concept which has to do with the production of the idea. It is central to whole innovation process, but some people draw a line between creativity and innovation. Innovation can be seen as a successful implementation of creativity and something which produces economic gains. It is thus not limited to idea generation alone, or concerns individual’s own pleasurable experience. In fact, every innovation can be argued to need creativity, but creativity does not necessarily lead to an innovation. Employee innovativeness can thus be argued to cover a broader range of behaviours than creativity.

Innovation is a new / complex process which needs the structuring of the required jobs, processing tasks as a useful means to enhance creative or innovative behaviours. The work based learning strategies cultivate new ideas in the organization and facilitate the employee learning and innovation. This was supported in a study that concentrated on the relationship between job design characteristics and innovation which was strengthened by the mediating factor of work based learning strategies. Another study which was carried out on empowerment practices (sharing authority, resources, information, and rewards) has shown that these practices generate innovative proposals by the employees.

For a long time, the innovation activities were carried out in the organization through a specialized department which was called ‘research and development’ (R&D) department and the employees’ participation in the innovation activities were rather limited to the local initiatives. The situation has changed now. Employees’ participation in the innovation activities is now a necessity for the organization. Employees’ participation in the innovation activities is also known as employee innovativeness and is represented by employee innovative work behaviour. Employee’s innovative wok behaviour is an impulse which initiates a range of organizational processes, owing to which the organization achieves its competitive advantage.

Employee innovative work behaviour is a popular concept which is now widely practiced. It is defined as behaviour of an employee towards recognition of a problem, generation of ideas, mobilization of support, and realization of the ideas related to the initial problem. It is engagement in innovative behaviours which includes behaviours related to the innovation process, i.e. idea generation, idea promotion, and idea realization, with the aim of producing innovations.  Employee innovativeness is required to cover a broader range of behaviours than creativity.

In a knowledge-based and less rigidly defined setting, every employee can help to develop organizational performance by distributing their creative ideas and using them as building bricks for innovative products, services and work procedures. In order to advance a continuous stream of innovations, employees are to both willing and able to innovate. Organizational management is to create the work motivation conditions which can stimulate employee innovative work behaviours. Specifically, extrinsic motivations can positively impact employees’ innovative work behaviours.

Innovative work behavior can be defined as ‘intentional generation, promotion, and realization of new ideas within a work role, group, or organization’. Organizational management is to realize the importance of employees’ innovativeness as an intangible asset which provides the excellent ideas to remain competitive, regardless of task responsibility or level in the organizational hierarchy. Employees view firsthand opportunities for change and improvements in the work processes and procedures because they directly interact with them as well as their customers. Thus, employees innovative work behaviour and the process which motivates such behaviour is an area of critical importance for the organization.

Successful implementation of employee ideas needs that ideas are formulated in the first place and that the environment is appropriately supportive. The support of the organizational management is critical in enabling innovation in the organization. Management commitment and resources are main contributors for the successful implementation of the ideas. Thus, support from management is one of the primary areas to focus on when trying to increase employee innovativeness. Further, both management and employees are to believe that every employee has potential for innovation, so that it makes sense to organize space and time for ideas to be expressed. However, even when thus belief is in place, employee innovativeness is sometimes hindered by unsupportive management practices.

Employees’ level of innovative work behaviour is affected by their perception of the management’s support for such behaviour. It is also linked to employees’ motivation. To involve employees in the innovation, management needs to take an active role in enabling and supporting the innovation process.

Employee innovativeness is because of the innovative processes which are the outcome of collaboration involving the organization and the management, and not the employees alone. Employee driven activities are influenced by the activities of management and co- employees. Lack of support for employees’ ideas due to them or employee being loaded with too much of work can make the employee disinterested in perceiving of the idea. It can also lead to ideas not being implemented. Hence, employees to be able to participate in the innovation activities, they are required to be engaged through various methods and forums. Employees’ engagement increases their participation in innovative work behaviour.

Employee innovative work behaviour is a deliberate behaviour of the employees at the workplace to offer new ideas, develop new services / products, and establish new processes and procedures in their departments, or in the whole organization. Normally innovativeness is the exploration of opportunities, generation, promotion, and implementation of ideas at the workplace. Employees with innovativeness are onlookers of opportunities to crave for their creative appetite. They come up with new solution. They promote their ideas and try to gain the support and develop teams.

Employees can be a source of ideas and ensuing innovation in the organization. These employees are non-managerial and non-R&D employees who are not assigned to formal innovation tasks. Employees at all levels are part of an organization’s innovation capital. Since employees have frequently both the technical and operational knowledge, they can see potential opportunities as well as risks related to the innovation. Further, employees are more frequently than others the source of ideas leading to radical innovation.  Innovative ideas of employees turn into better products, innovative services and efficient work processes. An innovative organizational culture places high importance on empowering employees in ways which allow them to act creatively and fulfill their potential.

Innovation initiatives are mainly dependent on the innovative work behaviour of the employees. Specifically, the principle of innovation involves embracing changes by identifying or exploring new chances or exploiting current ones, to distinguish oneself from rivals; and this comes from the innovative thinking and the ideas of every single employee. Hence, the organization is to focus on the capitalization of their employees’ ability to innovate.

Present-day organizations are looking forward to capitalize on the innovative potential of their employees in order to become innovative and competitive in the marketplace. Employees can help their organization improve through their new ideas. Innovative ideas of employees turn into better products, innovative services and efficient work processes. Several studies have shown that the employee innovativeness is related with the success of the organization. However, innovations are to be introduced on a continuous basis for which employees are always to be willing and ready to offer their innovative ideas. In this context, it becomes imperative to uncover what influences employees to innovate and whether their innovative potential remains similar over time.

The human resource within the organization is the single most important ingredient in the innovation success formula. The foundation of innovation is ideas and it is employees who ‘develop, carry, react to, and modify ideas’. The organizational innovation is dependent on the creativity of the group, which in turn is dependent on individual creativity of the group members. Innovations reflect the creative efforts of employees. Thus, it is the employees who build, promote and breathe life into an innovative culture of the organization. The innovative potential of the organization resides in the knowledge, skills, and abilities of its employees. Innovation is not the enterprise of a single entrepreneur. Instead, it is a network building effort which centers on the creation, adoption, and sustained implementation of a set of ideas among employees who, through transactions, become sufficiently committed to transform these ideas into ‘good value’.

In fact, organizations are now directing their efforts at mobilizing the creative potential of not only their employees, but of all their human capital which include employees, customers and partners to contribute big new ideas and help drive the organization forward. According to a survey carried out by Gallup in 2015, employees are most likely to contribute to innovations. Thus, organizations seeking to be innovative now understand that employee characteristics and behaviours trigger and enhance innovation. Deeper insights from Gallup survey have revealed that there is a close relationship between employee engagement and innovation. Engagement is a core resource in promoting innovative working.

Without engagement, any attempt at innovation is weak. If organizations can multiply higher engagement by greater insight into behaviours, it can make a significant difference to their innovation projects. Engagement and innovation reinforces each other. Engaged employees are more likely to be innovative and the innovative organization is more likely to motivate and engage its employees. In fact, employee engagement is the ‘sine qua non’ of the innovation.

HR practices in the organizations for the employees provide the employees the knowledge, expertise, skills, confidence and motivation to have innovative work behaviour. In fact, there are different sets of HR practices which are needed for employee innovativeness. Further, the impact of adopting of a package of complementary HR practices can affect innovative performance of the employees much more strongly.

There are several other factors which influence the employee innovativeness. Positive organizational climate and leadership can greatly influence and support the creative performance of the employees. The factors such as loyalty and professional respect have been proved to predict an innovative climate in the organization. Also, expected image outcomes and expected positive performance gains are indeed directly and positively related to the employee innovative work behaviour. Employees, who receive organizational support in the form of self-leadership, are more capable of creativity and innovation.

Thriving at work is a kind of growth gauge which provides to the employees how they are doing in relation to developing new proficiencies and working with energy. It captures the joint experience of vitality and learning at work, but differs from intrinsic motivation. According to social cognitive theory, all employees need to build positive resources to increase their adaptability. In fact, thriving sparks innovative work behaviour. Moreover, it increases employees’ functionality and adaptability since thriving is related to the work environment.

Innovation at work is a social process which involves interaction with co-employees, support, and enhancing new ideas for adoption. It has been shown that innovative work behaviour depends on the work situation and is positively related to a supportive environment. Such organizational environments are perceived as being oriented towards creativity and innovation while supporting and motivating employees ‘in their functioning independently and in pursuit of new ideas’. Perception of support for innovation and innovative work behaviour has been found to be positively associated. Normally, employees utilize personal resources to grow and achieve the highest level of functioning, while they also depend on appropriate resources to perform domain-related activities in innovative ways. As noted earlier, that innovative work behaviour is motivated through the organization’s setup and encouragement. Fig 1 shows a model for employee innovative work behaviour.

Fig 1 Model for employee innovative work behaviour

Employee thriving consists of energy involving positive emotion and eagerness to engage in a particular task. Moreover, the work environment can motivate the employee to go beyond the job responsibilities and think creatively. It has been shown that the organizational support of innovation facilitates innovative work behaviour. Further innovative work is not passive and it needs energy to seek out new technologies, processes, techniques, and products with support from the team and the management to accept new ideas. Organizational strategies can divert the employees’ functionality towards innovative behaviour.

Thriving reflects the joint experience of vitality and learning, and enables employees to grow continually. For example, when employees grow, they consider themselves to be expanding in ways which reflect enhanced self-knowledge and effectiveness. Thriving reflects ‘continually developing and becoming, rather than achieving a fixed state wherein one is fully developed’. It has been shown that there is a positive relation between thriving and innovative work behaviour. However, thriving is a psychological state which depends on the external environment to transform into behaviour. Given that innovation-supportive environments can influence the behaviour of employees, it is important that the organizational set-up need to divert thriving towards innovative work behaviour. When the employees experience thriving at work then they have energy and adaptability to learn new things and can be more encouraged to gratify their work demands with novelty.

Innovative work behaviour among employees has been linked to several related terms such as corporate entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, and the management of innovations among others.  All the terms aim at explaining the process of renewal or the revitalization of the organization through innovation initiatives from the employees.

Intrapreneurship and corporate entrepreneurship are amongst the most developed fields regarding employee behaviour toward innovation. Intrapreneurship and corporate entrepreneurship share innovation as their theoretical base. Both intrapreneurship and corporate entrepreneurship involve introducing innovation into organizations. The diffusion or adoption of an innovation depends on someone believing that they have a solution to a problem and wanting to invest time and energy in solving the problem.

Corporate entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship are both incremental renewal processes in the organization through innovative work behaviour of the employees. Corporate entrepreneurship concerns how the organization stimulates innovation, enterprise, and initiative from the employees of the organization, and the subsequent contribution of individual behaviour for the organizational success.  Corporate entrepreneurship can be defined as the transformation of the organizations through strategic renewal and can be regarded as a strategy for the development and implementation of the new Ideas. Intrapreneurship can be defined as autonomous strategic behaviour of the employees to exploit a given opportunity. Intrapreneurship means employees behaving in a way which can include altering routines and production methods.

Both corporate entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship involve innovative work behaviour of the employees. Corporate entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship both represent processes of organizational renewal through innovation initiatives from the employees. It can be interpreted that the desired results of a corporate entrepreneurship strategy are intrapreneurial initiatives from the employees. In fact corporate entrepreneurship embraces innovative initiatives from the employees in which the initiatives are responses to requests, and when the answers coincide with the strategy of the organization. Similarly, from an intrapreneurship perspective, the same initiative can be conceived as something rooted in the employee itself. The organizational strategy, corporate entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship can be related. Corporate entrepreneurship is when the strategy formulation defines the implementation. Vice versa, i.e. when the implementers have greater influence on the strategy formulation, then it is called intrapreneurship. The difference and the connection between corporate and entrepreneurship intrapreneurship is shown in Fig 2.

Fig 2 Corporate entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship

In workplaces, employees are to create innovative products and procedures which address emerging trends of the market. Because of this, understanding of employees’ innovative work behaviour, comprising the identification, generation, promotion, and realization of ideas as elements of this behaviour is important. Work situation can provide several opportunities for innovation advance. However, employees are to identify and pursuit these opportunities to become active as innovators.

Innovative work behaviour involves ‘everyday innovation’ which relies upon the employees’ intended efforts to deliver useful new outcomes at work. For example innovative work behaviour is frequently being described as the ‘intentional creation, introduction, and application of new ideas within a work role, group or, organization, in order to benefit role performance of the group or the organization’. Innovative work behaviours are neither expected of the employees in their official role as employee, nor there an unambiguous contract between the employees and the organization. Such work behaviours are merely discretionary manners, called ‘extra-role behaviours’. It is nevertheless crucial to promote the innovative work behaviour of the employees since it is a particular key asset for organizational success in a fast-changing environment setting.

There are four types of innovations consisting of process, product, technological, and organization. Innovativeness among employees can be enhanced through four factors which include perceived failure tolerance, communication openness, work discretion, and reward fairness. Further, the effect of the predictors is moderated by the organizational tenure of the employees. Further, failure is an integral part of the innovation process. Organization is to be ready to face failure in order to gain competitive edge through innovation. A positive outlook towards failure canA breed a culture of adaptation, learning, and innovation. The success is promised in tolerating the failures. Failure is likely to occur in the innovation process. Hence, organizational management is to show the tolerance of failures for the sake of innovativeness and creativity. The employees’ belief about failure tolerance established in this way becomes an important ingredient of innovative culture. Employees’ trust can lead them to innovate without fearing the failure. In fact, a tolerant and kind orientation of the management towards employees is pre-requisite of innovativeness.

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