What National Instruments does to nurture innovative employees

by Hannah Norton27 Mar 2015
With the talent crunch in today’s competitive market, one of the biggest challenges for the Southeast Asian arm of engineering technology business National Instruments (NI) is attracting and retaining skilled engineers.

And one of the key ways of holding on to good staff is by fostering innovation through creativity and problem-solving.

“NI recruits the best and brightest engineers and provides a wealth of opportunities for them to grow within the company through technology innovation and continuous training and development,” the managing director of Southeast Asia, Chandran Nair said to HRD Singapore.

“As an organisation composed mostly of engineers, we have a culture that is partial to discovery and innovation.

“We encourage and stimulate our employees to become problem solvers, and to take ownership of new and innovative projects that can enhance their specialization, qualifications and experience.”

Managers play an important role in nurturing this through providing guidance and mentoring team members, he said.

“We believe in the importance of having a workplace that promotes diversity and empowers employees to maximize their full potential.”

Accordingly, the company takes the same approach in fostering leadership skills in its young talent.

The company has an Employee Development program which includes leadership development, Chandran said.

“We have created and implemented several leadership programs globally for new supervisors and experienced managers to help them become more effective leaders. Through these interactive workshops, we develop leaders who can adapt to and drive change, build a top performing team, and inspire others.”

Ways to foster innovation

Research supports NI’s stance on encouraging employee innovation through fostering creativity and problem solving.

Renowned university Massachusetts Institute of Technology has released a study completed by Deloitte employees in one of their latest Sloan Management Reviews.

Deloitte LLP staff members Hari Kumar and Satish Raghavendran looked at ways to boost employee engagement and promote innovation and leadership.

They started a contest across four India Deloitte LLP offices where employees were asked to join teams; which were then presented with real-life business problems and tasked to come up with tangible solutions.

Each week losing teams were eliminated from the contest, and the winning teams were congratulated by way of advancement, small financial rewards and the opportunity to work closely with senior leaders on projects.

The pair outlined five important strategies in designing the contest, which included:
  • Small teams of four to promote collaboration 
  • The teams had the chance to focus on any problem
  • The contest was designed to be playful
  • No members of management were involved
  • The end goal was to affect corporate culture

The programme “was designed to challenge the conventional view of employer-employee relationships as transactional and to find new ways to win the hearts and minds of our organization’s employees,” the pair noted.

And it appears to have worked; with more than 500 participants surveyed indicating the contest had a positive effect on the Deloitte culture.

Other companies would do well to consider implementing a similar program, the authors concluded.

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