The latest in a series of Workplace Innovation Masterclasses delivered on behalf of Scottish Enterprise featured expert speakers providing insight into the benefits of engaging employees in innovation and improvement.

The event at Aberdeen’s Norwood Hall Hotel on 27th August was aimed at demonstrating that most product, service and process innovations are derived from interaction between employees rather than driven from the top – but these innovations are concentrated in businesses that use workplace innovation practices systematically.

Some 50 delegates drawn from a wide spectrum of Scottish businesses listened to Pieter-Jan De Man, director of Belgian freight trailer manufacturer Stas, who described how the introduction of workplace innovation practices transformed his company’s performance and gave them a competitive edge.

Pieter Jan De Man

“Your workforce contains a vast body of knowledge and ideas that have to be unlocked. What matters is job quality – not just pay and conditions but intrinsic job satisfaction. It can be a very challenging journey to move away from a traditional organisational structure and culture, but it is an essential one to stay competitive in a volatile business environment. The results in Stas – higher productivity, fewer faults and customer complaints, and enhanced job satisfaction.”
Pieter-Jan De Man, Director STAS

Similarly Lisa Duthie Leader of the Cornerstone Foundation, part of Scotland’s largest social care provider, showed how meaningful employee engagement has enabled Cornerstone to adapt to the changing and more complex demands of the care sector whilst improving client satisfaction and resource efficiency.

Lisa Duthie

“Why should jobs in the care sector be low paid/low esteem when they are so important?”, she asked. “Cornerstone’s journey is about empowering staff to deliver better care through self-managed teams, a flat structure, and simplified rules and KPIs – all achievable even within a highly regulated sector. Key outcomes – improved care, greater cost effectiveness and enhanced job satisfaction.”
Lisa Duthie, Leader of the Cornerstone Foundation

Also speaking at the Aberdeen Masterclass was Professor Chris Warhurst of the Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick, and currently the UK lead on an international EU-funded research project examining the future of work beyond Industry 4.0. Professor Warhurst’s address focussed on how job quality – employee voice, supervisory and peer support, skills development, multi-skilling and employment stability – boost innovative behaviour.

“Job quality boosts innovation behaviours. Leaders and managers choose to follow (or not to follow) evidence-based practices in the workplace that lead to higher innovation outcomes. Key factors include employee voice at all levels, supervisory and peer support, skills development and deployment, functional flexibility and multi-skilling, and wage or employment stability. It’s the gap in managerial skills and knowledge exerts a negative influence on those choices.”
Professor Chris Warhurst (Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick)

The Scottish Enterprise backed series of 12 Masterclasses are being delivered and facilitated by Workplace Innovation Europe, a not-for-profit company helping organisations achieve high performance and high quality working lives. Expert facilitators from WIE included Dr Peter Totterdill, Rosemary Exton and Natalie Wilkie, who will be leading more Masterclasses on behalf of Scottish Enterprise over the next two years.