Changes to believe in: flexible organisation, dynamic management and smart work

2009 – The wholesale is experiencing continuous pressure from the market because suppliers always have the option to deliver the goods directly to the end user. In addition the wholesale is faced structurally with a shortage of technical staff that is commercially deployable as well. Low enrollment in technical education and image problems of alleged heavy work that is relatively moderately paid, are the main causes. The wholesaler is increasingly focusing on advice, knowledge sharing and offering  total solutions to customers; this requires well-trained and motivated employees. In order not to lose the competition for good staff, the wholesaler must improve its image and present itself more as an interesting sector to work in. Therefore, in addition to technical innovation workplace innovation is also important for the sector.
This research focuses on the extent to which the wholesale invests in workplace innovation, in such a way that through promotion of it, there can be anticipated to developments in the area in time and with focus. In addition, this report serves as a handle for the industry to introduce workplace innovation and to deliver knowledge about the opportunities it can provide. 

This research aims at gaining more insight into the state of affairs in the field of workplace innovation in the Dutch wholesale sector and then pinpoint at what can be done in order to improve the image and competitiveness of the sector.

Research question
What is the state of affairs in the field of workplace innovation in the Dutch wholesale sector and what can be done to improve workplace innovation?

This study investigates the phenomenon of workplace innovation within the natural environment of the Dutch wholesale and it has a practical purpose. The research therefore can be characterized as a case study research, despite it has also features of a survey. The central feature of this research can be characterized as exploratory and descriptive, the study also contains an inventory and diagnostic aspects.
The study answers the following questions:

  • What is the state of the art of the Dutch wholesale in the field of workplace innovation?
    What necessary conditions for workplace innovation are met already and to what conditions can be anticipated better?
  • Is there any connection between what workers want in terms of innovation and the initiated innovative developments?
  • Is there any connection between ‘time working in the current position’, ‘time working in the organization’ and ‘age’ on the one hand and the ‘willingness to change’ of workers on the other?
  • Is there consistency between what employees want, in the field of innovation versus what the executives want in this area?

The first conclusion is that workplace innovation is still a fairly unknown concept in the wholesale sector. The dynamic environment of the wholesale, is forcing the industry constantly to adapt and renew. In the field of technical innovation the wholesale business is even more innovative than other sectors of small and medium enterprises. The tentative conclusion might be drawn that the employees in wholesale actually are accustomed to change and renewal and to some extent are motivated to contribute in a positive way.
This conclusion is supported by the results of the field studies. It can be concluded that in the wholesale the necessary conditions for workplace innovation slumber, but that the management and the employees are not really aware of the benefits it can bring. So here are opportunities for improvement.  
The theoretical approach of ‘persuasion’, provided an effective framework to map the orientations of the respondents. The research model was found to have sufficient validity to deliver sound results. As already stated, the wholesaler is highly dependent on technical innovation. By practicing workplace innovation now, eventually technical innovations will reveal even more clearly. The image of the wholesaler will improve and so it will become easier to captivate, to bind and to recruit good employees. Constant innovation not only ensures the survival of organizations in the wholesale sector, but also the jobs of the people who work there. 

Hopster, L. (2009) ‘Changes to believe in: flexible organization, dynamic management and smart  work’. (The report, in Dutch is attached.)