While organizations need an influx of fresh ideas, their efforts may be hindered as staff are often too busy juggling their day-to-day responsibilities and dealing with problems that arise, results of a recent Robert Half survey suggest. Nearly half (49 per cent) of chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed blamed being bogged down with daily tasks or putting out fires as the greatest barrier to their company being more innovative.
The survey was developed by Robert Half International, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on interviews with more than 270 CFOs from a stratified random sample of Canadian companies with 20 or more employees.
CFOs were asked, “What is the greatest barrier to your company being more innovative?” Their responses:
- Being bogged down in daily tasks/putting out fires – 49%
- Too much bureaucracy – 9%
- Lack of new ideas – 5%
- Ineffective leadership – 2%
- Other – 6%
- Don’t know/no answer – 29%
“All professionals deal with solving problems and handling daily tasks, but they also need to make setting aside time for generating new ideas a priority,” said Kathryn Bolt, president of Robert Half Canada.
“Managers should regularly encourage their staff to break away from their routines and develop innovative programs that will benefit the business,” Bolt added. “To give staff time to accomplish this, managers can work with their teams to reprioritize projects and also bring in additional support during peak activity periods.”
Robert Half offers six tips for inspiring innovation among work teams:
1. Engage the entire team. Empowered employees tend to be more innovative because they have a bigger emotional stake in the firm’s success. Cultivate a culture in which staff at all levels can easily share solutions for improving the business. Maintain an open-door policy and also encourage people to offer ideas in meetings, through an internal website or even an old-fashioned suggestion box.
2. Remove the red tape. Examine internal processes to ensure company procedures aren’t generating unnecessary red tape. Employees become disillusioned when they put their time and energy into devising ingenious ideas only to wait forever for them to be approved and implemented.
3. Keep it collaborative. A healthy level of competition between employees can spur innovation. But if a workplace becomes too competitive, team members may be reluctant to speak up for fear that their suggestions will either be stolen or ridiculed. Create policies that support the open exchange of information and a team-first atmosphere.
4. Build a better brainstorm. Too many potentially great ideas are discarded prematurely in brainstorming meetings. Rein in the naysayers who relish in saying why novel proposals won’t work. Support “blue-sky thinking.”
5. Give ’em a break. Burnout does not beget brilliance. When employees are consistently overworked, they’re likely to have more “uh-oh” than “a-ha!” moments. Implement programs that promote work-life balance, and consider bringing in temporary professionals during peak activity periods to keep your team fresh and focused.
6. Seek inspiration. As a leader, you set the tone. You’ll have difficulty motivating staff to ignite creative sparks if you’re feeling uninspired yourself. Research shows a person in a relaxed, positive mood has more innovative thoughts. Feeling the pressure? Occasionally get away from your desk and unplug by going for a head-clearing stroll.
The Canadian study was developed by Robert Half International. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on more than 270 telephone interviews with CFOs from a random sample of Canadian companies with 20 or more employees. For the study to be statistically representative and ensure that companies from all segments are represented, the sample was stratified by industry and number of employees. The results were then weighted to reflect the proper proportion of employees within each industry.