Benchmarking board performance: 500 board reviews later

Unlock evidence-based insights into board performance

Senior leadership critical to productivity and innovation

Where will your capacity to grow and increase performance come from over the next few years? Few would disagree that driving productivity and innovation is vital to growth and success. But how can you unlock the door to accelerated productivity and innovation? The key is employee engagement.

Our research found that the board, CEO and senior leadership team have a significant influence on employees’ willingness to drive productivity and innovation. Highly engaged employees are more than seven times more likely than disengaged employees to believe their senior leadership team encourages innovation and creative ideas.

Innovation won’t occur, or it will be limited, unless it is embraced and encouraged by senior leadership. Senior leaders should acknowledge that a certain amount of risk taking and failure is part and parcel of successful innovation. And they must also be open to what might seem to be some uncomfortable questioning of the way things are done.

Setting the tone at the top

The board, CEO and leadership team have a crucial role in setting the right tone at the top and ensuring an environment is fostered where employees, productivity and innovation can thrive. Leaders will achieve a significant return on investment from spending their time driving initiatives that increase employee engagement and turbo-charge productivity and innovation efforts.

Paint a compelling future

It is fundamental that senior leaders paint a picture of a compelling future for their organisation and its employees. A clear and inspiring long term direction (vision), purpose and strategy must be set out and clearly communicated, along with the chosen values and behaviours that will guide the way.

This process will include identifying what it is about the organisation, its products or services that are special, unique or different from others. Painting this picture of a compelling future is a key driver of employee engagement, and as a result, will help drive productivity and innovation.

Build a cohesive narrative

Leaders should build a united and compelling narrative as to why productivity and innovation are so fundamental to executing the organisation’s strategy and delivering on its vision. They should continue to communicate this in different ways and forums with their employees.

A compelling and sustainable future will include enthusiastic employee buy-in to the organisation’s values, associated behaviours and high standards of ethics.

Action checklist

  • Ensure the organisation’s vision is articulated clearly and in a way that is inspiring and has meaning and purpose for employees beyond the desire to simply achieve a greater return. Ask your employees whether they think you have painted a picture of a compelling future in the ways set out above
  • The CEO and leadership team should regularly refer to the vision, strategy and values in organisation-wide emails, newsletters, presentations and meetings. Regularly explain the link between the vision, strategy and values
  • Importantly, the CEO and leadership team need to walk the talk and be great exemplars of the values and related behaviours. They need to hold each other to account and should be open to their employees holding them to account as well
  • Consider whether innovation should be included as one of your organisation’s values; a culture of innovation may be essential to the execution of your strategy
  • Ensure those who lead initiatives to increase productivity have deep operational experience and a laser-like focus on the need to continually improve
  • Ensure those who lead innovation thrive on new ideas, concepts and perspectives including drawing them from the most unusual places. They can involve others who think and act progressively and collaborate well to build on each other’s’ concepts and perspectives to create something new and improved


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