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Nick Gold

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Managing Director

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How to create an innovative culture as we head into a recession

The businesses that survive and thrive in the coming months will be those who can innovate quickly.

We can now breathe a small sigh of relief having navigated the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. HR departments can give themselves a pat on the back, implementing company wide work from home policies, managing health concerns (both Covid-19 related and those connected to the stresses and anxieties of its employees), not to mention the furlough implications.

Combining culture with innovation will create an environment where the unknown is embraced. This might require a radical change in the way businesses work. 

The new ways of living and working have settled down in to everyday life and with the loosening of lockdown, this has meant that some flexibility has been bought back into people’s schedules and structure, so that some familiarity has crept back in. As we start to look forward, however, and take stock of how our lives have been impacted and will continue to be impacted by the pandemic, from a business perspective, we are heading towards a time of great uncertainty and recession.  

The main unknown to this is the depth and length of the recession, but there can be no doubt that the coming months (and potentially years) will bring challenges for businesses and individuals. To survive in future, they will require clarity of thought and purpose, alongside the ability to respond quickly and decisively. Business culture will need to blend innovation with entrepreneurship. These two skill sets enable individuals and businesses to think differently, become solution orientated while focused on the long-term goal. Here, we will cover a few strategies the HR function can champion to help achieve this.

Every voice matters

HR leaders can start creating a culture that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship by understanding that no idea is a ‘bad idea’. It is a trite saying, but it is the truth that the best ideas come from those who are looking with fresh eyes. This requires those who might be senior in the company either from a length of service or from an organisational perspective to embrace every voice.

We must accept that just because something has always been done in a specific way and has worked in the past, it does not mean that this is the best way in the new business landscape. We also need to understand that during this time, where we are all experiencing new methods and practices, historical precedent might not exist. We need to accept ideas and create an environment where the ideas can be spoken freely – that is the first step.

Planning for an unknown future

Combining culture with innovation will create an environment where the unknown is embraced. This might require a radical change in the way businesses work. For instance, the methodical analysis of a business case to make a considered decision needs to take a back seat now, as ideas that arise will be worked through by the team and challenged in the right places.

HR leaders will start to build a culture where questions and unknowns are embraced as part of the path forward rather than mitigated against or risk assessed for. This innovative culture embraces the vision, but has flexibility and no preconditions about how it is achieved.

Entrepreneurial endeavours

The act of being entrepreneurial is not starting a new company, it is not coming up with a great idea, it is certainly not having a clear idea of the exit strategy or what the successful business will look like.

The entrepreneurial mindset is one where every facet of a business is something that can be helped with. It is a situation where everyone might have specific job roles and expertise, but the collective priority is to get the job done. Therefore, we are starting to move away from rigid mindsets and ‘set in stone’ job descriptions, to upskilling employees to work across the business.

It’s about breaking the shackles of what an employee thinks they are allowed to do and sets their mind free, where collectively we believe it is not about who does what, but rather ensuring that the ‘what’ is achieved so the company pushes forward.

Optimism is infectious

It’s going to be tough, but the indomitable spirit of humans means that we can keep perspective of enjoying the moment and know that as long as we are in the game, then there will always be a way through. This means that having an open mind for innovative thoughts can only succeed if the environment around is conducive to encourage it.  

Unfortunately, in times of uncertainty, fear can rise to the surface, and that fear can paralyze the thought process. It goes without saying HR leaders need to be switched on to the message delivered by the business leaders, but also to the actions and thoughts of those who are fearful. They need to manage them in the right way so that these thoughts can be expressed and then channeled back into a positive mindset.

Culture is not words on paper

With remote working now being seen as just another part of life, it no longer has that air of being ‘something different’. This means that creating a culture for this disparate community of people is critical.

It will not be an easy task. It isn’t just a list of values and sentences on a website. HR leaders need to recognise that when their team owns the culture and belong to it, their employees have built a tribe mentality to deliver, which is imperative to driving a company through the challenging times that lie ahead.  

Interested in this topic? Read Leadership: how to prepare your workforce for the post-pandemic future.

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Nick Gold

Managing Director

Read more from Nick Gold

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