Involving staff makes companies innovate

In order to innovate successfully, companies are best off involving their staff in that process. An HR policy that focuses on staff involvement will therefore benefit innovation too. This is shown in an analysis of European data by researchers at the KU Leuven.

In order to innovate successfully, companies are best off involving their staff in that process. An HR policy that focuses on staff involvement will therefore benefit innovation too. This is shown in an analysis of European data by researchers at the KU Leuven.

Researchers from HIVA-KU Leuven got stuck into the data for 5,609 companies from 28 different countries. They identified a link between the presence of technologies, such as advanced robots or big data, and the involvement of staff: companies that give their staff more of a say and involve them further in the implementation of new technologies innovate more. This link applies in every European country, at both large and small companies.

Yennef Vereycken, a researcher attached to the Research Group for Labour, Organisation and Social Dialogue at the KU Leuven, explains: "Take advanced data analysis for the optimisation of business processes, for example. It has a great many advantages for the functioning of a company. The chance that a company will be using this kind of analysis is far larger when staff participation is high: 25 and 45 percent compared to companies with average or low staff involvement, respectively."

Involvement more important than training

Staff involvement exists in a range of respects. Companies with high staff involvement invest heavily in communication, both top-down and bottom-up. These companies are also very quick to engage staff in implementing innovations. They help consider questions like ‘What innovations do we need’’ or ’Is this innovation achievable for our company?’ "By involving staff in the process, an organisation can prevent problems later on," says Vereycken. "Maybe a particular technology is not wholly suited to the company, but several minor adjustments could make the difference. It’s far more efficient to detect these adjustments early on in the process and implement them."

When people feel involved in implementing new things, they’ll pick them up more quickly and will be less inclined to resist them.

Yennef Vereycken (HIVA)

Moreover, staff involvement promotes the acceptance of new technologies. "In the debate around innovation and personnel, the emphasis is often laid on training people as the most important point for consideration and a potential stumbling block," states Yennef Vereycken. "Our analysis shows a far greater link with staff participation, however. When people feel involved in implementing new things, they’ll pick them up more quickly and will be less inclined to resist them."

In that respect, Belgian companies are not doing very well. Data from 2019 shows that 55 percent of staff in this country are only involved once the new technology has already been implemented. Just 15 percent of staff are given a say in the phases preceding that.


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