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In the frame

How can we ensure that innovation – implementing new and useful ideas that provide value to the organisation or end user – is part of the day job for those working in FM? Dr Anna Walker offers a guide to developing your innovation management framework

In The Frame

12 March 2015 | By Dr Anna Walker

 

FM is a sector that is continually challenged to reduce its costs. In an environment in which doing more with less is an everyday reality, having a system to manage innovation is key. 

This has never been more important; 50 per cent of an organisation’s revenue in five years’ time will come from sources that do not yet exist, and innovation has been identified as a key differentiator among FM providers, with innovative service organisations outperforming non-innovative service organisations.

What are the main drivers of innovation that must be considered when developing an innovation management framework in your organisation? This article presents drivers at three levels: organisational, team and individual. Focusing on each of these levels guarantees a framework that is comprehensive and follows best practice. 


Drivers of FM innovation: organisational level

At the organisational level, it is essential that your organisation’s culture is conducive to innovation. This is unlikely to come as a surprise; culture is one of the most frequently cited factors by managers and consultants seeking to change an organisation. Complexity is introduced by the fact that organisational culture and innovation culture are different ideas, albeit with a degree of overlap. Culture drives behaviour, and as such innovation culture, and the factors that comprise it, should be the focus when discussing innovation in your organisation. This simple distinction can add clarity to a topic that can be confusing, and ensures that any systematic approach to managing innovation has a clear framework within which to operate. It aids decisions on which areas an organisation should focus on in order to encourage innovation, and which the organisation is already good at. 

For FM, applying a better understanding of innovation culture to your customer allows you to better tailor and position your offerings. For example, an FM provider may be particularly good at collaborating with external suppliers, and the customer may be very open to this. Alternatively, a customer may be so risk-averse that innovation activities should be framed as incremental improvements causing minimal disruption. In this case, it is not to say that innovation should not be pursued, but that a focus on incremental rather than radical changes may be better received. 

However, innovation culture is notoriously difficult to measure accurately. One measure, the Creative and Innovative Climate Scale (CICS), was developed using psychometric principles to guarantee reliability and validity and is therefore more accurate than many similar measures. CICS looks at 10 aspects of innovation culture (see Table 1). These form the basis of a discussion around innovation culture, identifying an organisation’s strengths and weaknesses regarding its culture for creativity and innovation, and allowing intra- and inter-organisational comparisons. This information can be used to develop specialised change initiatives and offer tailored business development.  


Drivers of FM innovation: team level

Does your organisation understand how to create effective innovation teams? Most work is done within a team, and so FM organisations must consider whether their teams are optimised when developing an innovation management approach. A number of considerations regarding the management and dynamics of a team should be considered.

  • Diversity. Consider diversity in relation to demographics (age, gender, nationality), personality traits, knowledge and skills. Note that diverse teams are more effective for complex tasks than simple tasks.
  • Cohesion. Is there a high level of trust and understanding within the team, meaning that members are comfortable suggesting and building upon others’ ideas?
  • Effective facilitation. Have clear guidelines during team activities and do not evaluate ideas too early in brainstorming sessions. Be prepared to manage conflict, which is more likely to arise within diverse teams.
  • Mutual accountability. Joint responsibility and ownership of a problem and the solution/s will encourage team members’ engagement.
  • Using formalised processes. Innovation is complex and benefits from a degree of formalisation to help people navigate it. Note that formalised processes appear to have a dual role in innovation, supporting teams, but hindering individual creativity if they are overly restrictive.

 


There are a number of things you can do to create effective innovation teams. For example, homogenous teams can temporarily second members from other teams for brainstorming sessions, and the effect of disruptive team members can be minimised by discussing ideas in smaller groups to make sure that everyone feels comfortable contributing. Management texts such as Coaching For Innovation offer further guidance. 


Drivers of FM innovation: individual level

Considering culture or team processes alone is insufficient. At an individual level, factors such as personality (e.g. conscientious, open and curious employees) and motivational style (e.g. intrinsically motivated by an inherent interest in their job) should be included in an innovation management framework. But this best practice originates outside FM. What additional individual level factors should FM professionals consider to support doing more with less?

We studied the effect of job satisfaction, health and safety and line management support on innovation within FM at Amey, using data from 10,537 Amey employees – 2,036 of whom were working in FM. The data was collected through an annual employee opinion survey, comprising 25 randomised questions answered on a four-point Likert scale. Questions focused on the respondent’s perceptions of himself and of Amey.

Job satisfaction emerged as the most important driver of innovation at the individual level, followed by perceptions that Amey takes health and safety seriously and perceptions that line management are supportive. The correlations between all of these factors and innovation were strong (≥r=.60), however, FM organisations should focus on employee job satisfaction as the highest priority as part of an innovation management framework as this emerged as the strongest predictor.

It is possible that in this study, health and safety was a proxy for having a consistent culture and organisational rhetoric around a topic. Amey takes health and safety extremely seriously, and this message is consistent across all levels of the organisation. Employees respond positively when organisational rhetoric and reality are consistent, and in turn this appears to facilitate innovation. Also, once employees are comfortable that their health and safety is being considered they can focus on more complex tasks, such as innovation.

Can FM professionals use this information to facilitate innovation more widely? With their influence on the physical environment, FM professionals are uniquely placed to effect change. To test this, we compared our results from FM employees with those of 8,501 employees working in other parts of Amey. No big differences were found, which supports the generalisability of our findings. Moreover, this means that recent divisional restructuring within Amey can only provide more opportunities for innovation. 


Climate Factors


Risk: An organisation’s approach to risk and level of risk aversion

Valuing Creativity and Innovation: An organisation’s recognition and reward of creativity and innovation

Team Cohesion: The level of trust and interpersonal understanding within a team

Autonomy: The level of control an individual feels they have over their work

Goal Awareness: A team’s understanding of, and agreement with, their objectives

Resources: Availability of facilities and resources

Ideation Systems: Idea generation and the processes an organisation uses to encourage it

Internal Networks: The extent to which employees know people in different parts of the organisation

Internal Collaboration: Different parts of the organisation working together throughout the innovation process

External Collaboration: An organisation’s relationships with other organisations, customers and suppliers, and using these relationships to develop new products/processes/services



Conclusion

FM professionals face a business environment in which they are challenged to do more with less, or do more with the same. Innovation is the answer, but it won’t happen without proper management. 

You can use the factors outlined in this article to develop an innovation management framework in your organisation to differentiate yourself from your competitors. 


Dr Anna Walker is developing an innovation management and measurement approach for Amey, as part of a knowledge transfer partnership project with UCL and Innovate UK. She is a business psychologist whose PhD focused on creativity, innovation and organisational culture in the defence industry. 




References

Coaching For Innovation, C Bianchi and M Steele (2014), Palgrave MacMillan

Hierarchy And Organisation: Toward A General Theory Of Hierarchical Social Systems, T Diefenbach (2013), Routledge

Ernst and Young (2010). Connecting innovation to profit, www.ey.com/ Influence Of Team Composition And Task Complexity On Team Performance, Team Performance Management, M Higgs, U Plewnia and J Ploch (2005)

Innovation Novelty And (Commercial) Performance In The Service Sector: A Canadian Firm-Level Analysis. Technovation, PTherrien, D Doloreux, and T Chamberlain (2011)