Innovation is one of the key ingredients to success in a technologically driven world.

While customers are important and creating a pleasurable customer experience is something that every company should work towards, innovation starts from within the company, and it begins with culture.

The key question every business owner should ask is, how do I create an innovative culture in the workplace? It’s a question that regularly plagues HR leaders and people managers.

Removing fear.

The article points out that removing the fear of failure and encouraging collaboration are essential elements. Yet, more is needed to overcome the innovation challenge.

Employees are at the heart of innovation. As a result, employee experience needs to be exceptional in order to foster an innovative culture.

When it comes to meeting the needs and wants of employees, there is an astounding disparity between how well companies think they perform and their actual performance – this is called the experience gap. This impacts employee motivation, which is a key challenge faced by employers worldwide.

The article adds that Qualtrics’ recent Employee Pulse Study found low employee motivation is prevalent in Malaysia and Singapore, where half the workforce is unsatisfied at work.

At the same time, we are witnessing an era where the C-suite is recognizing that employees have become key to driving innovation and creating exceptional customer experiences.

This paradigm shift in mindset needs to be supported by an even greater technology shift. Today, HR teams need unprecedented, real-time, and intelligent insight into the employee experience.

As HR leaders embark on this transformation, they will benefit from following these three steps:

Step 1: Close the information gap between employers and employees.

The article points out that a lack of information sharing across business units and hierarchical levels is the biggest roadblock to workplace innovation. If an organization does not have a culture of feedback, it is important to invest time and resources to build a foundation of mutual trust first.

To achieve this, organizations must build a digital open door that enables employees to provide feedback and voice their concerns easily and efficiently using intelligent feedback and data collection platforms. This means collecting data at different stages of the employee lifecycle, such as 180-degree performance review surveys, 360-degree evaluations, onboarding feedback, and exit surveys.

The article adds that open text format is also a great channel to enable employees to give more specific feedback. Today, artificial intelligence and natural language processing have made it possible to discover patterns and trends within open text. These advanced analytics allow managers to save time on analyzing feedback manually thus channeling more time to devise solutions that quickly resolve problems.

Critical to achieving success in this initial step is engaging the right stakeholders from the very beginning — getting decision makers and business leaders on board early will improve buy-in and increase participation rates.

Step 2: Empower managers with technology so they can take action.

The article points out that companies need to ensure that innovative ideas get presented to the right decision makers. New digital technologies provide powerful platforms that not only capture insights but also deliver them to those who can make the biggest impact… managers and leaders.

When people managers have access to role-based, real-time, dynamic dashboards for their teams, they can then intervene to improve the experiences of the people under their leadership.

The article adds that employee experience platforms empower managers in every business unit to receive feedback from their teams and be able to specifically analyze employee data to derive actionable insights. A clear representation of the gathered information will provide the relevant context to further help make decisions that enable organizations identify bottlenecks to developing an innovative culture.

Step 3: Build a measurable, predictable and actionable workplace.

Talent development affects an organization’s key metrics like productivity, engagement and attrition. It is essential to join the dots and see how employee development initiatives are impacting the business that keeps staff engaged, productive and loyal for longer.

The article points out that one should not underestimate the power of harnessing experience data – the opinions, beliefs, and sentiments of the employees. Combining this experience data – otherwise known as X-data – with operational data (O-data) equips businesses with the rare insight they need to design and deliver an exceptional employee experience to consequently drive the intended innovative work culture.

By combining O-data with employee X-data, all leaders can better understand the thoughts and emotions of their employees at moments that truly matter to them. This will help them to make informed decisions about how to convert their highly engaged employees to passionate brand ambassadors.

Integration leads to innovation.**

The article added that Gallup found it takes four engaged employees to counter the effect of one disengaged employee. This is highly reliant on the abilities of managers to effectively align the motivation and engagement levels of employees to their business goals.

This is achieved by fostering open communication across business units and understanding the unique needs of each group of employees.

How managers systematically, deliberately and consistently gather and act upon employee X-data and O-data will ultimately define the extent to which they can develop an innovative work culture to achieve long-term organizational success.

How low-cost, scalable technologies can unlock growth for entrepreneurs.

One of the downfalls of the growth of technology is that technological adoption does not come cheap. It requires a significant investment of time and money to make it work. Therefore, low-cost, scalable technologies that can unlock growth for entrepreneurs is seen as the holy grail.

The article points out that entrepreneurs are undeniably the fuel for economic growth and development in emerging markets, especially in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Micro, small and medium enterprises represent nearly 99% of the enterprise population in this region.

These self-determined, tenacious and ambitious people are responsible for approximately 67%of total employment in the ASEAN. They employ or empower millions of people and provide vital access to goods and services – particularly in rural areas.

And yet, most of these entrepreneurs are still systematically locked out of traditional finance systems due to legacy infrastructure and a scarcity of information.

Exponential growth.

The article adds that providing access to fitting financial services would unlock their potential to grow to medium-sized enterprises (or larger) and ultimately increase income and GDP. This potential is acknowledged by ASEAN country leaders, who are collaborating to increase access to finance for entrepreneurs as part of a Strategic Action Plan for SME Development (2016-2025).

The framework aims to strengthen traditional and alternative financing infrastructure with a focus on credit rating or scoring, microfinance and credit guarantee. It also prioritises financial inclusion as a key enabler of sustainable wealth creation.

Low-cost, scalable technologies and emerging digital financial models are able to radically support these efforts and the much-needed democratisation of the entire financial system. They can also enhance the traditional financing model and provide data-driven solutions to the challenge of credit scoring in developing markets.

The challenge: addressing legacy systems and information scarcity.

The article points out that many SMEs are excluded from traditional finance options because they have little credit information and are subject to prescriptive risk-scoring formulas. Financial institutions are unable to draw accurate risk assessments on these entrepreneurs and as a result are unable to provide or tailor financial products for them.

The lack of a financial footprint excludes them from accessing the working capital essential to growing their business.

The solution: creating a symbiotic ecosystem.

The article adds that the rise of emerging technologies is making it possible to connect developing communities to financial services. For the first time, a new wave of determined self-starters are being offered important financial choices for growth.

Research from the Asian Development Bank has found that digital financial solutions could address 40% of the unmet demand for payment services and 20% of the unmet credit demand. Powered by the steady rise of mobile phone internet penetration, financial services providers have already begun to digitally transform their services to reach a larger audience and meet this demand.

The article points out that there’s also greater opportunities for collaboration between banks and fintechs who can help incumbents leverage external digital ecosystems and data to provide financial services in a cost effective and sustainable way.

Sustainable solutions that address the complex needs of millions of entrepreneurs will require more than transformation though. What’s needed is a new end-to-end digital financial services infrastructure. One that’s built and operated to deliver financial choices to excluded entrepreneurs at the lowest possible cost.

For that to happen (and to yield the greatest impact), there needs to be a win-win collaboration between traditional financial ecosystems and fintechs to create systems and unit economics that work.

Plugging in the right information.

The article points out that technology, combined with large-scale alternative data and the application of machine learning, can bridge the structural and scoring gap in traditional financing.

By obtaining user consent to plug in information, such as digital wallet data or a mobile phone profile, it is possible to create individual financial identities to accurately assess risk for many entrepreneurs, for the first time. The possibilities are endless. From there, entrepreneurs can leverage their digital footprint to kickstart financial growth and well-being.

Integrating it all.

The article adds that it’s essential that these technologies are able to integrate easily into an entrepreneur’s day-to-day use of digital wallets and mobile communication networks. After all, these are the interfaces they use in their everyday lives.

This will allow for the inclusion of large groups of enterprises across the ASEAN region, as they are offered new financial choices through a seamless user experience.

Open and adaptable tech platforms are able to successfully combine the expertise of banking and the capabilities of payment partners to create opportunity for more than just financial products. There is potential for sustained financial education, increased engagement and greater access to other product types that can benefit these entrepreneurs and their communities.

The article points out that this emerging new ecosystem can create a cycle of sustained value. The more entrepreneurs transact and engage, the more they create additional data that can be used to further tailor their financial choices and experience, support responsible lending habits and encourage healthy credit behaviour.

How digital financial services can scale.

Combining banking ecosystems with telecommunication networks, that can provide alternative data for risk assessment, has propelled certain African countries to take the lead in financial technology and inclusion.  A great example of this is in Ghana, where technology company JUMO partnered with a mobile network operator and a bank to introduce access to digital finance.

The article adds that at the start of 2017, the bank served just over 400 000 credit customers using a traditional finance lending model. After partnering with JUMO to build and run digital finance products on their operating platform, this number grew to over 1.6 million customers by the close of 2018 and over 2 million customers to date under integration through the partnership.

This demonstrates not only scale, but also impact in a win-win-win ecosystem. The introduction of a digital loan product added about 2 million customers to the bank’s base in only two years, representing around 5x growth.

Similar collaborations between banks, telecommunication partners and technology providers are being seen through a variety of models in Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia.

Setting the stage for Southeast Asia.

The article points out that Southeast Asia is primed to take advantage of emerging digital financial platforms as new infrastructure and technologies benefit from regional governmental cooperation and support. Some countries are preparing for the wave by introducing strict customer and data protection regulations, such as electronic Know Your Customer (eKYC) regulations.

Singapore, for example, has launched myInfo, a government service that pulls data across government agencies and creates a profile for each citizen. This profile can then be used to verify the identity of the user before a financial service is provided.

The article adds that the stage is set for the region to continue its growth trajectory by making new models of digital financing available to entrepreneurs, the powerhouse of their economies. Rather than being seen as a disruption, this is an opportunity for collaboration and partnerships that can supercharge the region’s economy, offering millions of people the opportunity of financial wellbeing and prosperity.