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LEAD Innovation Blog

Read our latest articles on innovation management and innovation in a wide range of industries.

Date: 03-Oct-2018
Posted by: Julian Eberling
Category: Innovation culture

Innovation culture: How small gestures make a big impact on employee motivation


Innovation means renewal - a renewal that is successfully launched on the market. Innovations are important for start-ups to set foot in the market, but even large companies need innovations in order not to be overtaken by smaller ones. But why are some companies more innovative than others and what role does employee motivation play here?

Motivated employees as the key to innovation

The most important factor for a company's ability to innovate is the motivation and commitment of its employees. Innovative employees secure a sustainable market advantage, bring money and thus contribute considerably to the survival of a company. The innovation culture of a company is directly related to the commitment of managers and employees.

Paper Establishment of an innovation culture


The current Forsa study on leadership culture illustrates the high correlation between innovation culture and motivation. The survey surveyed 90 HR managers in Germany, one third of whom work in companies with between 400 and 500 employees, between 501 and 1,000 employees and more than 1,001 employees. The study divides companies into those with high and low employee commitment:

  • Innovation culture:Only 10 percent of companies with low commitment have an innovation and error culture, while the percentage in companies with high commitment is 91 percent. A similar picture can be seen when managers deal with mistakes made by employees. 77 percent of highly committed companies use mistakes as a source of improvement, while only 21 percent of the less committed use them as a source of improvement.
  • Managers as coaches:In companies with a high level of employee commitment, managers focus more on people-related management tasks such as coaching, feedback and employee motivation. In companies with a high level of commitment, all managers (100 percent!) see themselves as coaches for their employees; in companies with a low level of commitment, this only applies to 34 percent.
  • Feedback:95 percent of managers give regular feedback in companies with high commitment and ensure that employees are motivated. In those with low commitment, only 21 percent give feedback and for only 10 percent employee motivation is an issue.
  • Decision-making authority:95 percent with high commitment grant the necessary decision-making authority. With a low level of commitment, this is only 52 percent.
  • Respect and recognition:Companies with a high level of commitment achieve a higher degree of fulfillment, especially with regard to respectful handling, making sense and recognition. While 95 percent of managers in highly committed companies confirm that employees understand the meaning of their work and know their value contribution to the company, this is only true for 48 percent of those with low commitment. A respectful relationship between superiors and employees is 100 percent in companies with high commitment, but only 52 percent in those with low commitment.

The study not only illustrates the economic importance of motivated employees, but also shows that the right managers are much more important motivators than working environments, incentives or salaries.

Small gestures - big effect

A company needs employees who show entrepreneurship within the company - people who have the mindset of a startup founder but work for a company. Corporate entrepreneurs are an extreme example of innovation culture, but even small gestures on the part of the manager bring the innovation culture in the right direction:

  • Listen:Many innovations of employees with high innovation potential fail because their superiors ignore new ideas - or simply do not listen. From their daily practice, however, employees usually know best about their area of responsibility and are most likely to recognize the opportunities for improvement. It is therefore all the more important to listen to employees accordingly - these are important impulses for motivation and employee satisfaction. 
  • Information exchange:To motivate employees, the exchange of information is just as important as the advisory function of management. If managers provide their employees with the necessary knowledge, this also strengthens motivation.
  • Taking ideas seriously:Some managers do not take their employees' ideas and suggestions seriously, which ultimately represents a significant obstacle to a lively innovation culture. In some cases this conceals the jealousy of the superior towards the employee, who brings out an innovative idea. Jealousy is in principle a killer of innovation culture and thus a major barrier to establishing a positive innovation culture.
  • I'm handing over responsibility:Increasing responsibility for tasks influences employee satisfaction, motivation and creativity. Employees with higher responsibilities are happier and more committed than those who have to do irresponsible or unimportant jobs.
  • Maintain communication:To motivate employees, good communication and a clear flow of information between management and employees are necessary. Insufficient information flow and poor cooperation between different departments have just as negative an impact on the company as a bad image or management. In addition, valuable ideas are often not pursued and abandoned due to a lack of communication.
  • Appreciation:Many employees have good ideas, but quickly reject them because they are not aware of the value of their ideas or because their ideas are not valued. Management often makes the mistake of saying that new ideas are too expensive - according to the motto "We certainly won't! Moreover, when new ideas arise, there is often a lack of feedback from the manager. The same applies to praise and appreciation for the fact that the employee has taken the trouble to work out and propose a new idea. However, recognizing and appreciating employee ideas accordingly is an important motivational aspect and should be anchored accordingly in the innovation culture.


Conclusion: Using the potential of employees for innovation

An essential success factor for every innovation is the innovation culture in a company. Managers play the key role here. If they see themselves as coaches, transfer decision-making authority, give regular feedback and value the ideas of their employees, the motivation of the employees and thus also the innovative ability of the company increases significantly. Please also read our article "10 Measures to create a culture of innovation".

Establishment of an innovation culture

Julian Eberling

Born in Vienna. Since 2018 "Certified Service Design Thinker" he has been pursuing his passion as Innovation Manager at LEAD Innovation.

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