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5 ways innovation helps attract and retain talent

Future of Work|Talent
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By Claudia Guembe Lapetra | May 25, 2022

Our employee-led innovation program, Horizons, demonstrates our commitment to our people and to our clients.

We recently completed the fifth edition of Horizons, our annual bottom-up innovation program that engages WTW colleagues around the globe to help build a brighter, more sustainable future. Horizons is one of several channels designed to fuel a healthy innovation pipeline and fosters a culture of innovation across the business. Since its inception, Horizons has successfully created solutions that address client needs, open new markets, reach new customers or introduce new business models.

A great example of a successful Horizons project is our Connected Risk Intelligence service. In the words of its founder, Phil Ellis, head of client development, Risk and Analytics: “Connected Risk Intelligence is an innovative new development in risk consulting that visualizes risk in a single language and framework to empower organizations to make better risk finance decisions.”

How Horizons works

This year, Horizons generated a record number of ideas involving colleagues across 32 countries – all collaborating through creative brainstorming and teamwork. A cross-segment and cross-geography panel of reviewers evaluates all proposals according to four criteria:

  • Strategic fit
  • Potential impact
  • Risks/challenges
  • Time to return

The panel then selects ideas with the most potential to fuel future growth, narrowing the list down to the top contenders for colleague voting, where all colleagues around the world can vote on their preferred ideas.

Selected colleagues recently pitched their ideas to our panel of judges who determined which could best address our clients’ needs. This year’s diverse group of finalists come from seven countries across Europe, North America, Asia-Pacific and Australia and include a balanced mix of male and female innovators.

The winners will now have the opportunity to spend up to four months away from their day jobs to work with and learn from an innovation team and senior business leaders while prototyping and testing their ideas to assess the concept’s feasibility. Teams go through several sprints testing the market demand and building the business case to ultimately determine whether we’ll invest further in developing and commercializing the solution.

Five keys to Horizons’ success

Horizons undoubtedly has benefits for our clients, but it’s also a vehicle to increase colleague engagement and attract and retain the best talent. There are five keys to Horizons’ success:

Promotes inclusion and diversity

The goal of Horizons is to involve WTW colleagues from all nationalities, cultures, backgrounds and ethnicities. We know that diversity of thought and collaboration make ideas richer and result in more innovative solutions to help deliver value to our clients. This year, 44% of our idea contributors were female, and we saw a 7% increase in team-based submissions. Through Horizons, we build a more inclusive work environment where everyone has an opportunity to thrive.

Allows colleagues to develop a growth mindset

According to psychologist Carol Dweck, a growth mindset is fostered by embracing challenges, being inspired and motivated by the success of others, persevering in spite of failure and maintaining a spirit of continuous learning – all behaviors embodied in our innovation mindset. One of the objectives of the program is to embed a growth mindset in our organization, where all colleagues can get out of their comfort zones and think out of the box. It’s our way of fostering an innovation culture anchored in creativity, calculated risk-taking and the ability to fail fast and learn faster.

Promotes collaborative thinking in a digital context

Traditionally, inspiring people to think differently occurs in person during “brainstorming sessions.” We all saw a shift in how we work during the pandemic, and we discovered that digital brainstorming, when done right, can create not only more ideas but also high-quality ideas.

During the idea generation phase of Horizons, our community of “innovation masters” run “jam sessions” – creative brainstorms in a virtual environment that bring together teams from all over the world through real-time collaboration and dynamic discussions. Jam sessions are organized across all areas and regions of the business with colleagues across all levels of seniority to promote global inclusion and the removal of physical and reporting barriers.

Encourages problem solving

People often mistakenly believe that innovation is something that only clever, creative people do. But a sustainable flow of innovative ideas often starts simply by identifying and analyzing problems. We always encourage colleagues to properly understand our clients’ problems before jumping to ideation to ensure we create impactful solutions that actually solve our clients’ needs.

Avoids reinventing the wheel

For the first time this year, we have encouraged colleagues to come up with ideas that may have been implemented for a specific client or in a specific market that have the potential to scale to many clients or markets with a similar need. This reflects the philosophy that innovation doesn’t necessarily mean creating something brand new but doing something different in a way that adds value. This “one to many” approach helps us identify all the creative thinking that happens across the business and amplify it for the benefit of our clients.

Our colleagues’ perspectives

Horizons is an experience that touches many colleagues across the business every year and presents a unique opportunity to fast-track their careers and learn new skills on the job.

This is what our colleagues say about the experience:

  • Hélène Galy, 2021 Horizons project lead: “Horizons encouraged me to extend my network beyond my comfort zone. I also learned that good ideas rest on a set of critical assumptions that need to be scrutinized and validated. Then, it may become a great idea.”
  • Fabio Covre, 2020 Horizons project lead: “Participating in Horizons was a giant step in my career.”
  • Matthew Coleman, 2018 Horizons project lead: “It’s so easy to keep doing business as usual, even if its inefficient. Horizons provided me both the encouragement and the opportunity to think differently about our business and how to enhance our WTW offerings. While doing new things is always risky, Horizons provided several levels of support to help me make the most of my idea.”

Our clients demand innovative solutions to manage their people, risk and capital, and we strive to be at the forefront of delivering these solutions. Innovation has always been a key area of focus for WTW and continues to be a crucial part of our grow, simplify, and transform strategy. As such, we recently launched our new Innovation and Acceleration capability to incubate, curate and commercialize new ideas that address our clients’ most complex and critical problems and significantly impact their businesses and the markets in which they operate.

We firmly believe that organizations don’t innovate, people do. And at WTW, our collective effort fosters a culture of innovation that helps us create a competitive advantage for years to come. Horizons and our other innovation channels demonstrate our commitment to continuous innovation to help our clients. And equally important, Horizons demonstrates our commitment to involve our people in shaping the future of our business.

Author

Senior Associate, Corporate Innovation

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