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5 ways to thrive in an innovation economy

Black man standing on the right side of image holding a computer

By Mhairri Woodhall

Disruption is the new reality for organizations across every industry. Advancing technology and the pandemic’s ongoing effects continue to drive innovation and the need for agility in the workplace. In this environment of uncertainty, engaging employees and increasing value for customers becomes even more challenging. In any given moment, the pendulum can swing from thriving to surviving.

Jennie Gilbert, a facilitator with SAIT’s School of Business and Doug Junor, Managing Director of 4Rev Inc. and an instructor for SAIT’s Transformational Leadership course, work closely with organizations in a multitude of sectors. Both are experts in their field and offer students and clients valuable insight and coaching on the core competencies leaders need in the innovation economy.

Drawing from their expertise, here are five strategies companies should employ to create an agile workplace and successfully navigate digital transformation.

Engage to persuade

Establishing and communicating a strong leadership vision is critical during uncertain times. Organizations and leadership must then harness mindshare from across departments and business units to uncover innovation, engage and motivate employees. The historic top-down approach is not sustainable, especially when leading virtual teams. While technology plays a critical role in digital transformation, success comes when leaders can effectively capitalize on shared corporate knowledge and expertise. By using engagement to create rigorous processes and propel ideas forward, organizations will realize greater success in building agile work environments.

Shape a trust-based culture 

Consider trust as the foundation for creating a healthy workplace. Building authentic connections within a team and organization is an intentional practice. With the many social limitations caused by the pandemic, large corporate parties, company-wide events and offsite retreats are on pause. However, fostering genuine relationships is how successful leaders create a positive culture. People crave interaction, and employees who have a solid connection with leadership and their coworkers – even in a virtual environment – will be more engaged and have the confidence they need to do their job effectively. To accomplish this, leaders must check-in with their team and prioritize working on culture every single day. 

Measure by performance

Gone are the days of measuring success by physical presence, as COVID-19 has propelled conventional office environments into agile workplaces. Leaders must shift their thinking, processes and evaluations to inspire employees and measure output effectively. This current state of normal – which can change hour to hour, and day to day – requires organizations to offer greater flexibility. It no longer matters where or when employees complete their work. The emphasis is now on work progress, quality and delivery. By establishing clear and measurable, performance-based success metrics, leaders will increase engagement and help employees thrive amidst uncertainty. 

Leverage technology from the outside in

Top companies employ a design thinking strategy by building businesses around customer experience. Having empathy for the end-user requires leaders to identify and eradicate pain points to create a seamless buying process. Equipping employees to thrive in an agile workplace must follow a similar strategy. First, look for a customizable communication platform developed with the end-user in mind. Then, gain a solid understanding of what workers require to be effective in their roles – keeping workplace agility in mind – and develop solution-based tools to address their needs. While the technology already exists, engaging employees in the design and development process is critical for successfully leveraging the right tools. 

Foster lifelong learning

Digital transformation is disrupting industries and changing how organizations operate and deliver value. Integrating rapidly-advancing technology across all business units requires a strong leadership vision and a culture of innovation and continuous learning. To thrive, companies must nurture emotional intelligence, tap into existing mindshare and identify knowledge gaps. Upskilling is essential in a digital environment as top performers want to maintain relevance and advance their careers. Building a lifelong learning culture is fundamental for employee engagement and retention,

Relevant and flexible career-advancing programs

We help businesses thrive in a changing world of work. Explore group training options through SAIT Corporate Training and discover talent development solutions for your organization — no matter where in the world — through International Corporate Training and Client Development.

Or, build your individual skillset with courses from SAIT's Centre for Continuing Education and Professional Studies


This story was originally published in the  Centre for Continuing Education and Professional Studies guide in the Fall 2020 issue of  LINK magazine

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