By Scott Meacham
Paycom has mastered the art of corporate innovation
Corporate innovation is easy to talk about and difficult to achieve — especially as innovative young companies succeed and grow.
If ever there was a U.S. company that has mastered the art of corporate innovation, it is Paycom. This Oklahoma company started as one of the first 100 percent internet-based payroll companies when many people and businesses weren’t even sure what the internet was.
In the more than 20 years that followed, Paycom keeps innovating. The company’s latest technology is again reshaping the payroll industry. The big idea behind Paycom’s industry-first employee-drive payroll solution is enabling employees to do their own payroll.
Culture of innovation
I will admit that as in favor as I am of innovation, when I first read the words “employees do their own payroll,” I thought, hmm, I’m not so sure about that. Then the brilliance of this startling concept shone through. Employees already manage the HR tasks that make up payroll, including hours and expenses. Who knows better than an employee what their deductions should be? And who cares the most about getting paychecks right? The person getting paid, of course.
The Paycom DNA wires the company to visualize ways to help their customers overcome big business challenges and then to seem infinitely willing to connect the dots in unexpected ways, take chances, and bring solutions to market that create efficient disruption and thereby innovation.
And they have been doing this for more than 20 years. Paycom was named to the S&P 500 last year.
If Paycom’s culture of innovation could be bottled or bundled into software, I expect other corporations would scoop it up. Absent that, what are the lessons and tips can we extrapolate?
First, intentional senior leadership and commitment is a must, otherwise day-to-day priorities and pressures will overtake innovation projects, which by their very nature consume resources without producing revenue. CEOs and C-level executives have to set new rules that literally force (through goals or mandates or both) the mission of innovation into the company’s P&L. Innovation isn’t seasonal. It’s a 24/7, 365-days a year function, just like sales.
A corporation needs someone who wakes up every morning and wears this hat.
Second, too much talk spoils progress. Innovation is inspiring, but It is more important to build process and infrastructure than rousing town hall speeches. Whether the structure is a protected “skunk works” inside the business or an outboard innovation laboratory or stand-alone division with the mission of investing in startups who are inherently more limber and disruptive, the focus is on action and results, not box-checking.
Third, look outside the company for innovation expertise. That could be a development partner with unfunded growth opportunities or a research institution with spinout technologies. Tap into the expertise of organizations that support entrepreneurs.
The average tenure of S&P 500 companies in the late ‘70s was about 30 to 35 years. S&P longevity is forecasted to shrink to 15 to 20 years in this decade. Corporations with staying power will reinvent themselves, create entirely new markets, and upend entire industries with entirely new ways of selling and servicing customers.
Let’s get a serious dialogue going in Oklahoma. How can we as business leaders imbue the spirit and commitment to corporate innovation in more of our established companies?
Master the art of corporate innovation.
Scott Meacham CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.