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14forty Employee development - improved working experience

opinions 11.03.14

How to achieve innovation in FM

Although innovation is incredibly important for the FM industry and something we are all striving to achieve, it is often difficult to define and not fully understood. Part of the problem is that innovation can mean different things to different businesses, for example innovation could mean the creation of new and radical processes to some, whereas for others it might simply involve changes in the day-to-day delivery that add significant value. Additionally, although financial gain is often seen as the main result of innovation, we also see other benefits, such as employee development and improved working experience, which are equally as important.

Because innovation is such an intangible concept, we believe a mutual understanding of what we are working together to achieve is paramount, without setting too specific targets as this might undermine the process of innovation. It is also crucial to ensure that employees at every level are involved so opportunities for innovation are not missed. Having the infrastructure in place to encourage and facilitate innovation is the final piece of the puzzle. This requires excellent teamwork and leadership, the importance of which is supported by research[1] demonstrating the positive impact of the quality of teamwork, having a sense of team belonging and a transformative leadership style on a team’s ability to innovate.

In a strong team, each member has different strengths and weaknesses, making them suited to specific roles. Whether we are talking about one of our office managers or cleaners, each individual plays a key role in the smooth running of our business and the services we offer. It is important therefore to remember that there is always room for innovation at every level. Whether it be overt, large-scale changes or small, incremental process improvements, identifying and encouraging innovation should be the ultimate goal. Innovation could be as simple as placing room-booking boards on meeting-room doors, which removes unnecessary bureaucracy

According to research from EMC[2] of 200 C-level directors and business managers, there is limited consensus on the best approach to innovation; respondents used a variety of means including external training for individuals (40%), staff incentives (38%) and sponsors of innovation at a board-level (38%). However, 78% believe the senior management team has a conservative approach to implementing major change within a business and therefore creating a culture of dynamic innovation. It is also the responsibility of leaders to facilitate innovation; to ensure that there are regular meetings or brainstorms where ideas can be shared and discussed, to celebrate and recognise innovation and to take ideas forward to our clients and work collaboratively to ensure they come to fruition. For this reason we invest heavily in the training of our employees. By providing employees the opportunity to expand their skillset in a cultural setting that encourages innovation, we hope to ensure we have engaged and proactive business leaders in the future.

Whoever said innovation has to be a spur of the moment idea or a sudden flash in the dark is mistaken. Although initial ideas can arise from a moment of inspiration, innovation can also be achieved by having the right processes in place and with the help of effective leadership and collaboration, providing the ideal environment in which innovation can occur. At 14forty, we are continually working to create a culture which supports innovation, both within our own organisation and those of our clients.

[1] Journal of Organizational Change Management - Transformational leadership and innovation in an R&D organization experiencing major change: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=17088242&show=abstract

Journal of Organization Science – Teamwork Quality and the Success of Innovative Projects http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3085981?uid=3739256&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21103552023797

[2] EMC Leader 2020 report ‘Escaping Analysis Paralysis’: http://uk.emc.com/campaign/it-transformation-leader/index.htm

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