There is a growing interest in both employee-driven innovation (EDI) and innovation in welfareservices, but a lack of empirical studies addressing innovation from the employee perspective.Accordingly, this study was designed to contribute with well-grounded empirical knowledge, aimingto explore the barriers to and opportunities for participation in innovation experienced by employeesof the Swedish welfare services. In order to reach the aim, a qualitative thematic analysis of27 semi-structured interviews with employees in four municipalities was performed.The study identified three main themes, with a great impact on the innovative performance of thestudied organizations: support, including leadership and innovation processes; development, includingcreativity and learning; and organizational culture, which includes attitudes and communication, all essentialingredients in EDI. Experienced barriers for innovation were unclear or non-existing innovationprocesses with ambiguous goals, insufficient learning, and deficient organizational slack, thus creatinga tension between day-to-day work and innovation and hindering reflection and exploration. Attitudes of colleagues and lack of communication were also barriers to implementing innovation,suggesting the need for better management support for a communicative and open culture. Opportunities were found, including commitment to innovation and willingness to try new ideas,but the employees must be given the mandate and sufficient time to develop the potential thatemerges from continuous learning, time for reflection, and user dialogue. The conclusion was thatincremental innovations existed, but the full potential of these did not benefit the entire organizationdue to inadequate communication and lack of innovation processes.The study improves our understanding of how employees regard their involvement in innovation.It also discusses how to make better use of employees’ resources in innovation processes andcontributes to important knowledge about EDI in the public sector. On the basis of our results, wesuggest a model of EDI for use in practice.
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