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How to Encourage Your Team to Innovate and Get the Job Done With Hyundai’s Kate Fabian

Kate Fabian

Q: We all know that driving innovation is essential to sustainable business success. But how do we keep driving innovation in times of great uncertainty—when more people are likely to feel fearful and perhaps cautious?

This past year has forced brands and individuals to take a fresh approach to their traditional processes and industry rituals. Traditional processes that focused solely on delivery are now being challenged and are making way for more experimentation and exploration for new solutions to the same problem.

This year we’ve all seen the concept of working from home become a successful reality, as many companies are thriving. For example, Hyundai again has set an all-time monthly sales record in May, the third straight month achieving a new record. Not only has this shown our company’s ability to evolve and transform, but the commitment of our entire network has given us all a new perspective on the way to work and the ease of being able to provide more flexibility in the workplace.

We should continue to challenge existing processes and adopt lean and agile business methodologies. When it comes to generating fresh ideas we should be biased to action. A few recent examples include when we quickly came together to donate $4.4 million to hospitals to create drive-through testing centers, and supported new car-owners who have lost their jobs due to COVID.

Q: What helps you keep an innovation mindset?

An innovation mindset is dynamic, it recognizes the notion that the world is in constant transformation and embraces the importance for continuous evolution. It is something that you, as an individual and your team, have to constantly foster and grow. You must be open to change, be courageous and embrace new thinking and ideas that often feel uncomfortable.

I push my teams to think-outside-the-box and continually ask myself:

  • Am I being a leader that encourages new thinking?
  • Am I fostering creativity?
  • Am I challenging the current process to ensure we are always moving forward?

I have introduced these key questions as a framework, which you can use to make yourself more innovative. Keep in mind that this is not something that you can do from one day to the next. It is a constant learning process and it starts with you.

Q: How do you encourage your team to balance innovation and a need to get the existing job done?

I am a big believer in encouraging my team to develop their holistic intelligence. To see the big picture, develop a deeper understanding on how something relates to everything and importantly, about understanding context rather than content.

Most importantly, as a leader you must empower your teams to make decisions and take action. Those who feel valued and trusted to ‘think outside the box’ and attempt new ways of doing things achieve the most notable business results.

The key is to not be too critical if things go wrong, because your team will take note. No one wants to be the center of negative attention, and you’ll find them holding back if they’re worried about potential consequences.

Right now, I am thinking about how the customer experience changed so much for the automobile industry in the past year. The digital retailing space had to move forward 10 years in just a few months in terms of the way consumers want to shop and buy vehicles. For us, it was important to adapt quickly and now all of our dealerships have end-to-end digital retail capabilities with the added benefit of home delivery where the state allows.

Q: How important is innovation in marketing and communications? Put another way: Do you think messaging about innovation is important to consumers?

I believe that innovation is synonymous with evolution. We owe it to our customers to continuously improve upon the experiences throughout their entire customer journey.

Same goes for the way we communicate this to our customers. With the sheer volume of messages hitting any given person in one day, brands not only need to ensure they are relevant and relatable but importantly that they are adding value to the lives of their customers.

Q: Research has shown that diversity helps drive innovation. Can you provide an example of how you have seen that in action?

Our vision is progress for humanity, and that includes ensuring our marketing is both inclusive and representative. We recently selected independent and minority- and female-ownedCulture brands as our African American marketing agency of record. Culture Brands will provide strategic marketing solutions for reaching and engaging African American audiences more effectively and will begin work this month with the launch of the all-new 2022 Tucson.

From a company policy, we like to lead from the front. Diversity and inclusion continue to be a crucial part of our success. You can see that from our senior leadership, we have a number of amazing female and diverse voices driving a new company culture from high-level positions across the company, something you rarely see in such a male-dominated field.

Kate Fabian is the Director of Marketing Communications for Hyundai Motor America, where she is responsible for brand and multicultural marketing, media strategy, national and regional dealer advertising, and experiential marketing.