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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Unleashing workplace innovation
Article Type: Editorial From: Strategic Direction, Volume 30, Issue 9
Peter Totterdill, is based UK WON (UK Work Organisation Network), Nottingham, UK
Rosemary Exton, is based UK WON (UK Work Organisation Network), Nottingham, UK
The way we organise our workplaces will play a vital role in the future of our economy and its ability to compete, as well as in the health and well-being of our people. This special edition, Unleashing Workplace Innovation, focuses on new ways of working that are beginning to make a real difference to companies and public sector organisations across Europe. It also focuses on the obstacles that are inhibiting the wider adoption of these vital innovations.
Successful and sustainable organisations create empowering workplace environments, which enable employees at all levels to use their knowledge, competences and creativity to the fullest possible extent during their day-to-day working lives. Such organisations achieve high productivity through the use of participative and empowering ways of working, and where there are continuous opportunities for all employees to contribute to the improvement and innovation of products, services and processes.
This has come to be known as “workplace innovation,” both because the adoption of new ways of working is innovative for each organisation and also because it creates an enabling culture that embraces continuing reflection, learning and change.
Workplace innovation is not another “initiative” or just the latest management fad. It is associated with well-understood practices such as empowering job design; self-organised team working; structured opportunities for reflection, learning and improvement; high involvement innovation practices; the encouragement of entrepreneurial behaviour at all levels of the organisation; and employee representation in strategic decision-making.
Workplace innovation leads to a high-quality of working life and high performance. There is a considerable body of evidence demonstrating that it achieves high performance through employee well-being, health and engagement.
Yet, survey results show consistently that workplace innovation is an underused resource for European businesses and public sector organisations seeking higher levels of performance, product and service innovation and employee engagement.
Closing the gap
Unleashing Workplace Innovation is the result of a collaboration between the UK Work Organisation Network and its partner company Workplace Innovation Limited. It aims to bridge the gap between academic theory and research and the practical development of new ideas and practices in the workplace.
The UK Work Organisation Network (UK WON) was created in 1997 as a not-for profit forum for diverse partners including employers’ organisations, trade unions, professional bodies, non-governmental organisations, universities and others with an interest in the workplace. UK WON’s aims are to explore ways of shaping the future of work and organisations to achieve optimum social and economic benefits, and to help close the gap between evidence-based good practice and common practice. UK WON’s activities include research, dialogue, dissemination, consultancy and policy advocacy. Its activities include managing and facilitating both in-house and multi-organisation workshops, forums, conferences, masterclasses and networks. For more information, see http://www.ukwon.net
Working in tandem with UK WON, Workplace Innovation Limited is an ethical consulting company creating sustainable organisational change through employee engagement. Workplace Innovation has international experience of supporting sustainable change in a diverse range of organisations. All of its surpluses are used to support UK WON’s pro bono activities. For more information, see: http://www.workplaceinnovation.eu
Towards a mass movement in Europe
UK WON and its European partners have long advocated recognition of workplace innovation as an important strand in European Union (EU) policies for competitiveness and employment. Product and service innovation, productivity, skills development and utilisation, health, active ageing and social inclusion are all influenced by what happens inside the workplace.
In 2012, the European Commission announced the creation of EUWIN, the European Workplace Innovation Network, managed jointly by TNO and UK WON with partners in several other countries. The EU’s flagship initiative “Innovation Union,” part of the Europe 2020 Strategy, sees workplace innovation as complementary to technological innovation and a prerequisite for achieving smart growth. It is hoped that EUWIN will pave the way for a sustained policy commitment to closing the gap between leading practice and common practice in Europe’s workplaces.
Since its creation, EUWIN has built a network, which includes many hundreds of managers, employees, union representatives, social partner organisations, researchers, public policymakers and consultants. It has organised highly interactive conferences and workshops in several parts of Europe, enabling different stakeholders in the workplace to share knowledge and experience. It has led to the creation of local and sectoral networks. A new European Journal of Workplace Innovation has also been launched (http://www.ejwi.eu).
Finally, EUWIN is establishing the Knowledge Bank, destined to become the leading source of case studies, tools, articles and other resources for stimulating, informing and sustaining workplace innovation. You can subscribe to EUWIN’s Knowledge Bank and Bulletin free of charge at: http://uk.ukwon.eu/
Yet, there remains much to do. If the content of Unleashing Workplace Innovation stimulates or resonates with you, please join the movement.
About the authors
Professor Peter Totterdill is Joint Chief Executive of UK WON and a Director of Workplace Innovation Limited. He is also Visiting Professor at Kingston University London and a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Bath.
A passionate advocate of organisational practices that combine high performance and high quality of working life, Peter’s career as a researcher, policy advisor and consultant has focused on building bridges between academic knowledge and practice.
Peter’s background is in economic development, and he has a PhD in industrial restructuring and public policy. A former Professor of Work Organisation at Nottingham Trent University, he led the Centre for Work & Technology and The Work Institute from 1992-2005.
He has published several articles, chapters and papers relating to work organisation and economic development. He speaks frequently at conferences and seminars to enterprises, policymakers and researchers throughout Europe and beyond.
Peter’s Board-level experience includes seven years as a non-executive Director at Nottingham City Hospital NHS Trust. He was also European Policy Director with Ecotec Research and Consulting from 2006-2008 and is a Trustee of several charities. Peter was born and educated in Devon in the South West of England and likes nothing more that walking in its beautiful countryside and moorland. Peter Totterdill is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Rosemary Exton is a Director of UK WON and has worked with the organisation since 2002. She is also a Founding Director of Workplace Innovation Limited.
Building on 31 years’ experience as a clinician, manager and trade unionist in the NHS, Rosemary provides programme management, leadership and development support to UK WON and Workplace Innovation Limited, and to their partners and clients.
Rosemary is an acknowledged expert in workplace partnership and employee engagement in the European healthcare sector. She has a particularly strong interest in issues relating to quality, productivity, the governance and delivery of effective healthcare, partnership working and improving the working lives of staff.
She has published a number of articles on workplace innovation and entrepreneurial behaviour and is a regular speaker at international conferences. Rosemary has wide experience of driving change and working effectively across organisational boundaries, including the facilitation of dialogue workshops, training for the facilitators of employee forums, action learning and supporting those leading innovation. She is also experienced in the use of Forum Theatre as a resource for employee engagement and workplace innovation.
Rosemary continues her passion for midwifery alongside her work with UK WON and Workplace Innovation Limited. She practices clinically, has a leadership and mentoring role and is a trade union steward for the Royal College of Midwives. Rosemary was also an elected Director of the Royal College of Midwives from 2007 to 2013. She is the midwife representative on the UK Stem Cell Supply Committee and midwife advisor to the UK Stem Cell Oversight Committee on the harvesting of stem cells from cord blood.
Rosemary and Peter owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Neil Devons of Proteus Media for his unfailing ability to turn lengthy reports into succinct and readable prose while retaining their essential meaning. Unleashing Workplace Innovation would not have been possible without his brilliance and stamina.