Inspiring Innovation in the Workplace

innovation lightbulb

Recently at CareerPlug we’ve been focusing a lot more on our core values as a company.  Each month we take one of our values and recognize one another for how we are embodying that value in our daily work.  I recommend it – it makes values more than a sign on the wall and allows our team to positively reinforce the work we do.  November’s value is “Innovate & Learn Continuously.”

I think innovation is a great word – a powerful one.  Innovation is arguably the driving force behind entrepreneurship, success, and business as a whole.  From the macro levels (someone decided to put a camera in a phone, for example) to the micro (maybe we can cut down on all these spreadsheets?), innovating at work is a long-standing tradition that moves business forward.

Proactive organizations recognize the importance of consciously innovating and permeating that philosophy throughout all levels of the company. Innovation becomes part of the culture … after all, asking someone to innovate doesn’t flip a switch in their creativity where they automatically spit out the best results.  Innovation comes from an environment where ideas are heard and creativity is encouraged.   And not every innovation is a breakthrough, but rather most are a series of small steps.

innovation umbrella

So what can you do to foster a workplace where innovation happens both purposefully and organically?

Ask for Ideas:  Rather than thinking about innovation as a top-level exercise, encourage all your employees to submit their ideas.  This involves creating a reliable system for accepting, responding, and acting on new ideas.  Employees who make their voice heard – even if it’s not an idea that’s right for your organization – deserve to be acknowledged.  At CareerPlug we hold a monthly innovation meeting where everyone in the company brings new ideas for improvements.  For smaller companies, this is a great opportunity to present and foster ideas.

Be an Accessible and Open Leader:  As an owner or manager, you are the source for a positive culture within your team.  The spirit of innovation does begin with you and if you are closed off to your team, chances are they won’t feel comfortable coming to you with new ideas for innovation.  Strive to create an open a free-flowing line of communication in your office – an “open door” policy is a good beginning.

Encourage Diversity:  Assemble teams of people with different passions, backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.  The best innovations rarely stem from homogenous groups of minds.  Hire for talent, diversity, and culture … this combination will help you build a skilled, creative team.

Reward Failure:  Or, reward ‘smart’ failure.  Recognize employees for trying something new, even if it doesn’t work out.  Give your team permission to fail as you give them permission to innovate.   By creating a space where employees don’t fear messing up when they try out new ideas, creativity and innovation is allowed to flow more freely.

Simplify, Simplify:  Red tape, drawn out approval processes, disjointed systems of communication, bureaucracy and some more bureaucracy … not exactly the words you associate with creativity and innovation.  The secret is to get out of your own way . . . where do you see over-complication in the workplace?  Innovation can start there.

What does innovation mean to you?  And what do you do to foster an innovative work environment?

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Nicolle Gatlin

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Kacie Sommers

Creative Design Manager

Kacie was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 2012 with a degree in Anthropology.

Kacie joined CareerPlug as an intern while still in college in 2012. Post-graduation, she joined the CareerPlug team full-time as a Talent Specialist on the Recruitment Services side of the business, eventually working her way up to be the Recruitment Services Manager. From there, she learned her passion for the internal processes of what makes the business tick and explored other roles at the company, including Internal Support, Implementation, and Quality Management, before eventually finding her home in Design. She is now building a Creative Design branch off of the Marketing team.

Outside of work, you can find Kacie walking her dogs Bixby & Bean along Buffalo Bayou, hanging out with friends (and their pets), and tending to her 40+ house plants.

Jenny Leman


Native to Texas, Jenny graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004 and joined CareerPlug in 2017. She retired her first career path as a Registered Dietitian after 10 years, and has found her true belonging in business operations.

As CareerPlug’s President, Jenny leads all teams to an aligned effort toward achieving our vision. She works to build healthy and scalable internal systems to equip and empower the CareerPlug teams to bring their best for our clients. She loves contributing new ideas and rethinking the status quo. Jenny really connects with the company’s core values, but especially with our intent to “Keep Growing.”

In her non-work life, Jenny enjoys time with her family, playing drums and performing with the Austin Samba School, and finding excuses to be on the lake.

Chris Igou

Vice President of Sales

Chris accidentally started a 20-year career in franchising when he was 18 years old and took a job painting houses for College Pro Painters. That job turned into the ownership of his first franchise (a house painting franchise). While at Monmouth College in IL, he operated his business, played on the varsity football team, and studied to become a teacher.

The taste of entrepreneurship and desire to coach others led Chris deeper into franchising, working with a few franchise brands helping them grow their businesses. He lived in the Chicagoland area his entire life until recently moving his family to Austin, TX.

In his free time Chris coaches youth sports, especially youth football, and spends as much time as he can with his wife and 2 children.

Andrew Robinson III

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Natalie Morgan

Senior Director of People

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Canaan Davis

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Ashley Garia

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Ashley Johnson

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Originally from small town in central Texas, Ashley Johnson graduated from Texas State University in 2013 with a degree in Business Administration. She was hired by CareerPlug as a Talent Specialist in 2014, and moved up to ultimately lead the Recruitment Services team. From there, she pivoted to Implementation, and is now the Implementation Manager.

As the Implementation Manager, Ashley and 3 direct reports function as a transition between Sales and Partner Success in helping our clients get set up and established in our software. She spends her free time raising her 2 dogs, playing cornhole, and perfecting the art of charcuterie.

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Polly Schandorf

Engineering Manager

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Clint Smith

Founder & CEO

Clint founded CareerPlug in 2007 with the simple idea that there was a better way to help employers connect with quality applicants. Today Clint works every day to fulfill CareerPlug’s mission: Make Hiring Easier. Leading by example, Clint loves spending his time developing new ideas and teaching others.

After graduating from the University of Florida, Clint worked in investment banking and strategic marketing; both experiences influenced the development of CareerPlug. He also spent a year away from the business world teaching 5th grade in Boulder.

Clint is passionate about helping others succeed and is involved in numerous mentoring programs. He and his wife, Sarah, are also foster parents. Clint enjoys family time, beach volleyball, and outdoor adventures.