Publication: IMA

May 2015

7 Ideas for Boosting Innovation in the Workplace

Constant innovation is one of the pillars of corporate success, and business leaders know this. Yet only 31 percent of U.S. chief financial officers (CFOs) polled in a recent Robert Half Management Resources survey say innovation is a strong suit among their workforce. Whether staff or management, everyone could benefit from being more creative and visionary. Here are seven ways to improve and promote innovation in the workplace.


1. Train and cross-train
The best ideas arise not when employees work in a silo, but when they have a steady stream of outside knowledge and creative insights. To help them build on their knowledge and to think differently, encourage them to take advantage of seminars, in-house training and e-learning. Encourage employees to sign up for them. Interdepartmental
collaboration and cross-training also expose workers to alternative ways of doing their job.

2. Learn from other industries

New ideas come from not only within the financial world, but outside of it as well, of course. In addition to reading trade publications, finance and accounting professionals should also look into the concepts percolating in other fields, such as technology, arts/design, media and academia. The broader a person’s knowledge base, the better he or she can connect the dots and think creatively.

3. Stress innovation when hiring

In job postings, include innovation as a core value. Besides the requisite technical skills, certifications and years of experience, potential applicants should know that your company respects and appreciates creative thinkers. And during interviews, ask candidates for examples of how they’ve innovated in previous positions.

4. Bring in outsiders
There are benefits of promoting from within: The new manager is a known quantity, and rewarding top talent is an excellent
retention strategy. But the downside is lack of new blood. A good approach to filling management positions is to have a balance of institutional knowledge and fresh perspectives. Interim workers and consultants can also boost a company’s innovation quotient because they don’t have a this-is-how-we’ve-always-done-it mindset.

5. Speak up and out
Brainstorming sessions are great ways to kick-start innovation. Whether they’re at an off-site retreat or in-office conference room, employees are naturally more creative when all they have to focus on is producing new ideas. Managers should also encourage workers to speak up and make suggestions in a variety of ways: one-on-ones, staff meetings, comment boxes, idea boards, email, online forms and so on. Make it easy, quick and safe for workers to offer suggestions.

6. Reward innovation
To get more of a certain behavior, provide positive reinforcement. In real terms, managers should acknowledge the new ideas team members contribute and thank them for their input. As for the suggestions that end up saving time or creating new business, give out rewards like time off, monetary bonuses, gift cards and movie tickets. When employees see tangible evidence that management appreciates innovation, they’re more likely to submit ideas.

7. Tune in
Several scientific studies have found music can make people more productive by putting them in a more positive mood. One piece of
research even suggests that tunes with 50 to 80 beats per minute enhance creativity and stimulates learning. This advice obviously wouldn’t work for finance professionals who prefer quiet. But for those who like a good beat or background music, let them put on the headphones and turn up the innovation!

When deadlines loom and the workload’s heavy, shaking things up doesn’t quite top the list of priorities. But not only should finance professionals make time for innovation, it should be an integral part of the business model.


Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 340 locations worldwide. More resources, including online job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at


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