Category: Skills for Innovation.
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Innovative workers are people with skills and fresh ideas, and know what their companies need. Because of the last requirement, businesses have better chances to find the innovations they need from experienced workers rather than from fresh graduates or just research institutions.
But do businesses provide platforms and incentives good enough for their experienced employees to innovate? Say if I am a worker on an oil field, I am supposed to keep working for long hours every day on what I have already been doing. Even if a great idea flashes in my mind, where can I find the time and energy to innovate? After all, my daily tasks are what I am supposed to do and it is a desertion if I do not dedicate to them, while innovation is something extra. In addition, many workers in the energy sector are earning big bucks compared to other industries. Switching from their original position to the innovation team may not necessarily do them better.
Incentives such as financial rewards or bonuses for successful innovation projects are not uncommon in the industry. But in addition to them, businesses must create a flexible innovation track for employees in any position.
An innovation track is an option an employee can choose when he/she has a great idea in mind. Once approved, the employee can leave his/her current position and concentrate on innovation for a period of time. The company should, of course, provide the resources and maybe also education opportunities that the innovator will need during this period of time. If the project succeeds, the employee can choose to become a trainer to teach other workers about the new technology, move on to his/her next innovation idea, or return to his/her original position, depending on his/her interests. Even if the innovation fails at the end, the worker can return to his/her original position without any deduction in his/her benefits. Past failure records should not prevent the employee from applying to the innovation track again. Innovation may take years. During these years, salaries and benefits of the innovator should be comparable to the case if he/she is at his/her original position, if not better. “Comparable” does not mean staying the same, but following the salary increase or promotion that he/she would have had at his/her original position. The company needs to show its employees by the attitude of managers, written policies and thorough implementation that it truly encourages innovation.
Maybe this is cynical, but an employee probably puts his/her benefits over the company’s. More skilful and experienced workers will innovate because that will add diversities in their skills which makes them more valuable in the job market, add variations in their work life, and give them a break from the front line. The innovation track allows time and resources for the workers to concentrate on the development of his/her ideas without unnecessary worries. These are the incentives for experienced workers to innovate.