The 5 steps for strategic cost-cutting in your innovation agenda

In times of uncertainty, when business models are challenged, managers and financial directors are bound to cut costs to make organisations more agile, robust and adaptable to change. Leaders with a clear vision then tend to use cost-cutting and improvement to align costs with business strategy, to lower costs, focus on the aspects of the business that are controllable and free up resources to fund transformation and future growth.

However, aggressive cost-cutting tactics will not salvage companies under pressure. The change must go deeper, reaching a strategic and cultural level. This means that a company’s most valuable assets – people and their talents – must be mobilised to innovate and to find new ways of working that do not require high investments in new product research and development. Together you can save substantial amounts of time and money.

We show you how to add strategic cost-cutting and improvement to your innovation agenda, and how the development of an innovation culture is a powerful tool to align people’s focus, change behaviours, save costs and deliver continuous and effective results. To make it work, we guide you through the following five steps:

 

1. Define your strategic cost-cutting goals, which can be incorporated in your innovation agenda.

You need to have a clear view of your company’s strategy and map out good and bad costs for programme intervention, at macro and micro levels. On the one hand, bad costs should be seen as those that do not align with the growth strategy. On the other hand, good costs are those that support business capabilities to achieve growth and may be worthy of more investment.

2. Guarantee C-Suite engagement from the beginning and have a clear direction for your cost strategy.

You should deliver cost optimisation with the support of the CEO and top managers, defining areas of improvement from the beginning, as well as how to address each of these areas.

3. Invest more in bottom-up approaches, engaging and having your people contributing.

Simply externalising tasks and reducing headcount are often ways to overshadow a complex problem. You need to call on people’s knowledge and experience to help you separate the wheat from the chaff and find concrete and innovative solutions.

4. Be resilient in creating a cost-conscious culture for continuous optimisation of resource use.

Over time, as you seek new ways to rationalise and optimise costs, a new culture of strategic cost-cutting will be embedded.

5. Explain to your workforce your shared mission and remove fears,

ensuring that both needs and strategy are consistently understood across the organisation. Your employees must feel they have a role to play and can have an active voice in the decision-making process, being welcomed into the discussion about the best ways to reach the proposed goals.

 

A well-structured innovation management programme for strategic cost-cutting and improvement can be particularly useful to get employees identifying ground-level enhancements, with several additional advantages:

  • allowing you to develop a cost-conscious culture
  • easily uncover bad costs and inefficiencies
  • assure more dialogue and engagement
  • build up an ongoing, resilient process

Strategic cost-cutting is never blind cutting. It is, in fact, a method to accelerate the discovery of new and more effective ways of doing business, at a lower cost, challenging you to look at the larger picture, to seek the root cause of the problem. It should be seen as a way of questioning how we do things, even why we do them, exploring new innovative routes and building the foundations of tomorrow’s growth.

Andreia Agostinho Dias, Sales Executive
Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO

Get to know the Five Steps to Introduce Cost-cutting in your Innovation Agenda here

How Human Resource leaders make the most of innovation management

With innovation management capturing rising interest from human resource managers and directors, Exago’s team took part in the Expo’RH2018 in Estoril, Portugal, to discuss the latest news and trends in the sector. The event organised by the International Faculty for Executives gathered hundreds of HR directors from leading companies such as Nestlé, Ageas, Pfizer, Renova and McDonald’s, under the motto “Experience is the way”, on March 14 and 15.

In the spotlight was the importance of communication for employee engagement. Effective communication not only has to be continuous, but also two-sided, said Maria do Rosário Vilhena, Human Resource Director of Nestlé Portugal. The food and drink company is using focus groups to launch internal challenges and collect insights, while searching for better ways to convey “consistent messages to everyone” across the different business units of their large organisation, “and to be understood by all”.

Ongoing communication and a close relationship with employees has also been part of Renova’s success, explained their HR Director, Paulo Santos. The family-run paper consumption goods company expanded internationally as “the sexiest paper on Earth” and is a renowned case study for incremental innovation.

To open communication channels and bring together the experience and know-how of all employees, larger, multinational companies are also using platforms that allow them to reach their people across business units and geographical locations.

Promoting change through your innovation programme
Internal communication is critical in processes of organisational change, according to Paulo Teixeira, Pfizer Portugal Country Manager. The pharmaceuticals company opened a communication channel with employees through a post box placed in each business location to get ideas and suggestions, but also their feedback. Similarly, an internal tool has supported the recent image and culture change at Montepio bank, Fátima Silva, Head of Talent & Development at Montepio bank, told the audience.

To strategically realign its workforce, the insurance company Ageas used Ding!, built on Exago innovation management software. After Ageas bought AXA’s Portuguese operations, Ding! is helping the company spread its organisational culture and communicate with all the employees from the different brands they now operate, Portugal Human Resource Director Rita Baptista said.

“Listening to our employees was the most important factor for this successful transition, since we were able to make people feel part of that change,” she added. The Ageas management was able to promote company goals and engage people in the process of transformation, bringing everyone together in a collaborative innovation platform.

The HR Director of ANA – Aeroportos de Portugal, Catarina Horta, also highlighted the importance of a company’s collective intelligence as a learning tool.

Keeping in mind the words of Ray Kroc
The quote “None of us is as good as all of us” is attributed to the founder of McDonald’s and defines the company’s DNA, says Sofia Mendonça, HR Director of McDonald’s Portugal. She explains how collaborators, franchisees and suppliers are the corporate pillars involved in the business evolution. The iconic 50-year-old Big Mac, for example, is a by-product of this approach: it was originally suggested by a Pittsburgh franchisee after several construction workers commented that the hamburgers were too small.

McDonald’s connects with those three pillars through several types of channels, both face to face and digital. Gamification and social features, along with a vivid communication tone, are particularly relevant in the digital linking to their workforce, whose average age is between 19 and 23.

Step 3: Invest more in a bottom-up approach for your innovation agenda

When developing your innovation agenda, bear in mind that employees deal with inefficiencies in your company daily, often having diverse and powerful ideas related to organisational processes and products. They also have opinions and insights concerning the areas and processes in which it could make more sense to cut or to invest.

Top-down approaches sometimes bring your initiatives from micro level to macro level, relying on transformational opportunities to reduce costs. Yet they do it without looking at the whole picture, unable to identify the real inefficiencies, unable to create a sustained way to drive costs and to change inefficient spending behaviours.

You can save time and money by having your employees contribute ideas for the cost-cutting strategy, as well as cost-optimisation ideas that can transform and impact the company positively.

Any ‘reductions’ or ‘cuts’ should aim at building a more robust organisation, in search of innovative ways to redefine itself. There are limitless options according to your reality. Have a look at some sample results from customers who incorporated a cost-cutting strategy in their innovation agenda:

  • By selling obsolete stock items to employees interested in buying them, an organisation generated a new revenue source and freed storage space, allowing a much more rational use of space;
  • A client was able to streamline its customer support call centre efficiently, improving service quality and vastly reducing the number of calls received by the customer service department, simply by adopting different colours for cables, routers and set-top boxes;
  • They also saved €2M with a new, eco-friendlier packaging system;
  • Another client embraced distribution of administrative documents by bike, a cool and eco-friendly idea with significant results: by replacing 30% of the motorcycles with bike couriers, distribution costs were reduced and almost a ton of CO2 emissions was saved in just seven months.

STEP 3 advises you to invest more on a bottom-up approach, calling on people’s knowledge and experience to help you separate the wheat from the chaff and find concrete and innovative solutions, mainly at micro level.

Andreia Agostinho Dias, Sales Executive
Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO

You can access the full paper here

 

Ten years building the future together

In 2006, an IT visionary, an innovation hunter and an algorithm doer met for coffee and an idea came up. In November 2007, Exago was born.

Now, on our 10th anniversary, we celebrate the results of our brilliant customers and the over one million users who have taken part in building their organisation’s future.

From the thousands that have come to life, we share 10 simple yet impactful ideas to stir us all.

We challenge you to pick (at least) one!

 

How innovation can help you conquer the new generations

A Gallup report shows that US companies lose $350 billion in revenue every year due to employees’ disengagement. In fact, 70 per cent of your employees are probably disengaged. Yet full participation is an emotional commitment that cannot be forced.

With the Millennials and Generation Z joining the workplace, the challenge rises: no longer can we believe that it is enough for a company to provide the work, and that an employee’s motivation will come naturally.

What is more, data shows that employees want to be more innovative at work and want to take more responsibility. This tells us that fostering creative environments and innovation initiatives will also nurture motivation, engagement and, therefore, productivity.

Three perspectives on the value of making companies more inclusive and collaborative

Innovation can be defined as the development of customer value through solutions that meet new, undefined, or existing market needs in unique ways. Solutions may include new or more effective products, processes, services,  technologies, or ideas that are more readily available to markets, governments and society.

The development of a corporate culture where innovation is incentivised and becomes the way of doing business can bring companies several advantages, according to different points of view:

  • From an organisational perspective, managers encourage innovation because of the value it can capture. Innovative employees increase productivity by creating and executing new processes, which in turn may strengthen competitive advantages and provide meaningful differentiation. Innovative organisations are inherently more adaptable to the external environment; this allows them to react faster and more effectively to avoid risk and capture opportunities.
  • From a managerial perspective, innovative employees tend naturally to be more motivated and involved in the organisation. Empowering employees to innovate and improve their work processes provides a sense of autonomy that boosts job satisfaction.
  • From a broader perspective, empowering employees to engage in broader organisation-wide innovation creates a strong sense of teamwork and community and ensures that employees are actively aware of and invest in organisational objectives and strategy.

In this sense, managers who promote an innovative environment can see value through increased employee motivation, creativity, and autonomy; stronger teams; and strategic recommendations from the bottom up.

READ MORE:
How to create a culture of collaborative innovation in younger generations

FROM THE START:
Loyalty is no longer enough to both employers and the workforce

Aylin Olsun, managing partner of ASO Company
Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO