Workplace innovation in European companies

2015 – This Eurofound report details the reasons for enabling workplace innovation, along with its adoption, implementation, and the impact it has on the organization and its employees in 51 companies across Europe.

Workplace innovation  (WPI) is a developed and implemented practice or combination of practices that structurally (division of labour) and/or culturally (empowerment) enable employees to participate in organizational change and renewal to improve quality of working life and organizational performance. To be able to obtain the before mentioned benefits it is important to know how policymakers can stimulate WPI.

The authors constructed a specialized WPI index to select the 51 organizations used in this study. A qualitative comparative analysis was performed to analyze the WPI conditions within these companies.

Reasons for enabling WPI
From an organizational perspective WPI practices are primarily adopted in order to improve efficiency, gain a competitive advantage, and to enhance innovative capability. From the perspective of managers and employees, economic and business goals remain the predominant reason for implementing WPI practices. But learning and development opportunities are also considered important reasons for introducing WPI practices.

Types of WPI practices
From the 51 cases studied in the report the authors distinguished five types of workplace innovation practices, three of which were WPI-related: WPI-structure (14%, practices related to teamwork, job design, and organizational restructuring), WPI-culture (20%, practices that enhance communication, knowledge sharing, and allowing employees and managers to work together and influence organizational change), and WPI-mixed (19%, A combination of WPI-structure and WPI-culture). The other 2 practices were not WPI related: 39% of companies used HR practices and 8% used other practices such as technology-related interventions. The authors also found that organizations used many different paths to achieve WPI. These paths imply that there is no one best way to become a workplace innovative company and that companies can choose their own way to develop workplace innovations.

Impact of WPI implementation
The authors found that for WPI to be successful it is essential that employees take a central role in the implementation process. The majority of respondents agreed that the three factors that facilitated implementation were employee involvement, top-management commitment, and leadership.  Successful outcomes for organizations were higher employee engagement, greater sustainability, and better performance. Employees enjoyed greater learning opportunities, more challenging jobs, and indicated that they had a greater voice in organizational decisions.

Policy Pointers
The authors urge companies to not only focus on economic initiatives, technological innovation and research programs but to also include a greater focus on WPI practices. To achieve this objective, policymakers and companies need to (selection of policy pointers from the report):
encourage sectorial-level approaches with low thresholds for    companies by involving the sectors and to work on a way through which    multiple companies can participate (such as learning networks).

  • develop diagnostic and intervention tools for companies to assess their situation and take steps towards more substantial WPI practices.

  • facilitate the integration of WPI in innovation in general.

  • boost the participatory role of employees in designing and implementing the WPI practice, and the dialogue with employee representatives regarding changes and the company’s future (participation and dialogue).

Eurofound (2015) [Peter Oeij, Rita Žiauberyt?-Jakštien?, Steven Dhondt, Antonio Corral, Peter Totterdill, Paul Preenen], Workplace innovation in European companies, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.
The report is attached. The mini-cases are to be found at the EUWIN knowledge bank:
Also attached an article in: Economic an social Changes: Facts, Trends, Foercastst, 5 (47), 195-218, 2016.