As members of the young and energetic workforce, we are where leaders need to turn for innovation. The entry-level employee to mid-level manager has a need to do work that is meaningful, or at the very least have a say in how it could be done. Nothing provides more inspiration for creative ideas than the opportunity to make a positive difference in work processes or outcomes and to be rewarded and acknowledged for it.

Young employees unleash innovation

Leaders of organizations who desire innovation in their business cultures should ask for input in decision making and guide their staff members through creative thinking processes to ensure followers are on the right track. In addition to stimulating innovative ideas, allowing employees at all levels to take part in the decision-making process will facilitate transformational leadership development for the future of the organization.

When leaders give followers the freedom to make decisions, they are enabling employees to experiment with ideas in a safe environment and challenge themselves with a new way of thinking. With the ability to add to the work process, employees will begin interacting in a way that supports innovative ideas and influences the future of the business.

Open communication inspires creativity

An imperative aspect of innovation is companywide communication that generates trust and encourages information exchange. A culture that allows communication to flow openly and evenly across all levels and departments will find that employees even in entry-level positions have the tools necessary to envision opportunities for better ideas.

Most organizations do not listen to the ideas of those lower in the ranks, but those employees are often bright students right out of college or the best of the best who transferred from other organizations. The fresh ideas produced from the newest additions have the potential to improve the company in ways never thought possible by a seasoned workforce. An employee that is kept out of the chain of information exchange will be less motivated and will suffer from diminished levels of creativity. It is important that everyone in the organization is included in communications.

The mission and vision of an organization sets the tone for the culture that eventually develops. The mission and vision should be communicated daily and should foster openness in communication in all directions. Many organizations only give lip service to open communication or open door policies. As a result, a lack of trust and dismal levels of creativity develop within the culture.

The premise that leadership has all of the answers and that the followers should not question is a stale and bureaucratic ideology that is not conducive to inspiring innovative thinking. Organizations that want to become more innovative need a mission and vision that encourage ideas from their workforce and actively seek input from all departments and across all levels, ultimately empowering their people.

Empowering employees toward new ideas

When a workforce is empowered to make decisions, employees are then able to think outside of the box and drive the organization in new and innovative ways. The transfer of power should take place once the employee is fully integrated and capable of making sound decisions. The authority to make decisions should be offered in a progressive manner, so the employee maintains her creative momentum.

A wealth of potential is unlocked when a workforce is empowered to do the work the best way it sees fit. The momentum generated from empowered people can set a fully committed organization on the course of ongoing improvement. Empowerment needs to become a part of the culture and should begin as soon as the employee feels comfortable making decisions.

Since its people are a company's biggest asset, it is important that employee ideas are rewarded by implementing those ideas to improve work processes and outcomes. After all, they do the work every day, so who better to ask about doing it a better way?

By validating forward-thinking ideas, the organization will provide inspiration to the rest of the workforce to continuously look for ways to cut costs, save time, and produce more. If the employees do not think their ideas are welcome, then they will never disclose them. The culture should celebrate and embrace smart business ideas no matter from whom they come in the organization.

Moving new thinking throughout the organization

Quality employees who can provide an organization with innovation will require options for individual development to impact the cultural change toward innovation. It is to the company's advantage to use its younger employees' needs for skill development and job changing to propel innovation throughout the culture.

An employee moving from one department to another will be able to transfer new ways of thinking from one place and use them in the new role. The steady move of employees from one sector to the next will take innovation to a whole new level and decrease the time it takes to instill innovation throughout the entire organization. If the less experienced - and in most cases younger - employees within the organization feel stagnant or stifled for too long, they will be less likely to remain engaged.

An excellent solution to appease this appetite for knowledge is to ensure that leadership is dedicated to assisting followers with learning new job roles and thinking in new and innovative ways about their current positions. When changing departments and titles, the employees will drive innovation forward and improve work processes with a deeper understanding of the bigger organizational picture.

The supervisor's role in driving innovation

Younger workers in organizations are not influenced by titles but instead by the leader's capabilities and willingness to share knowledge. Ideal leaders will set an example of versatility and provide a safe environment where trust and candor are highly valued. Successful assimilation of innovation into the organizational culture requires leadership to foster and develop innovation among their followers.

The actions and behaviors of mid-level managers are directly related to the creativity that an organization will produce. With in-depth leadership training, proper accountability, and daily communication about leadership's responsibilities to foster creativity and trust, mid-level managers can rise to the standards necessary to inspire innovation and grow the next generation of innovative leaders.

Leadership must understand the importance of truly knowing their followers and what motivates them if they want to inspire them to contribute creative ideas. When a supervisor focuses an employee in areas that are naturally motivating for him, the employee has the potential to far exceed average performance.

Each person is motivated by different things, and it is the direct supervisor's job to get to know employees well enough to align their interests with overall job goals. A motivated employee will find that she is constantly pushing herself to improve the work process and outcomes generated. A supervisor who asks questions and targets specific jobs that match the employee's innate motivations will engender a staff that searches for new ways of thinking about what they do best.

Management can propel the organization in new and innovative ways and inspire a workforce to meet the company's vision of innovation by validating innovative behavior each day in ways that appeal to employees. One of a leader's responsibilities must include knowing what followers deem to be a reward or a punishment. If a particular employee finds leaving work early to be a reward, then leadership could leverage that fact to congratulate the employee for a job well done.

Job satisfaction plays a major role in stimulating new and productive ideas. Employees must be given the opportunity to do what they find to be satisfying in their jobs to harness the creativity necessary to establish an innovative thought process.

In the diversity of the modern work environment, many new and exciting ideas can be generated and are a direct reflection of the culture of the organization. Choosing the right person for the right job will create a comfort level that encourages invention. If workers predominately occupy jobs that are satisfying for them, the organization will see much success in the output and quality of ideas.

Concluding thoughts

In an ever-changing business world, innovation is the key to launching business organizations into the future. Although many cultural qualities are necessary to construct the proper environment for innovation, communication is by far the most important. By encouraging open communication and taking a genuine interest in the development of all levels of the organization, employees will have the drive and inspiration to develop fresh and groundbreaking ideas.

Transformational leadership coupled with a companywide commitment to employee development provides the means to inspire a workforce toward productive invention. If we are to develop more innovative cultures in our organizations, we will need to adopt more committed and less controlling behavior to empower creativity in the workforce. T+D