HR Needs to Play a Bigger Role In Driving Innovation

In today’s tepid economy, companies need creative people and new ideas to drive revenue and profits. Unfortunately, the department most responsible for talent management isn’t doing enough to help the cause.

First, the good news. Nearly 60 percent of HR leaders say they’re involved in brainstorming sessions related to product and business innovation, and roughly 50 percent of companies say they’ve adopted new technology to encourage internal communication, collaboration and innovation.

Now, the bad news. Even though they’re participating in these discussions, most HR leaders haven’t revised their talent management practices to drive wholesale improvements in creativity and innovation.

For example, only 31 percent provide training and development courses that foster innovation, and 71 percent don’t screen candidates for innovative qualities. Only 27 percent include innovation measures and metrics in employee performance plans, while 20 percent measure the innovative efforts of only some employees.

You can get the ball rolling by aligning innovative output with rewards and offering employees access to online training courses, research materials and lunch-and-learn sessions to help them develop their creative capabilities. Of course, experts say you need to train line and middle managers first, lest they inadvertently impede the flow of new ideas.

And you can certainly spearhead a suggestion box or process for submitting new ideas and even propose ways to recognize and encourage new behaviors. By following in the footsteps of J. Randy MacDonald, senior vice president of HR at IBM, you can take advantage of your ability to review and mitigate HR bureaucracy, which could be stifling creativity.

Once you establish the basics, who knows what might come next. Maybe you’ll suggest bigger changes to drive innovation, like implementing a version of Google’s 70:20:10 time allocation rule or letting employees telecommute, so they can come up with new ideas instead of sitting in traffic.

One Response to “HR Needs to Play a Bigger Role In Driving Innovation”

  1. I am so gratified that you wrote this article. It has been a long-running soap box of mine that HR is too focused on making check marks on a list– “There are 10 items on this list: you only have 9, so we’re not even going to call you”. Even if item 10 is there implicitly in the resume, if only 9 are spelled out, the candidate is ignored. But more to the point of your article, the question of, “Can the candidate ‘synthesize’ item # 10 (whatever it is, programming language, mapping tool, skill)? Do they show innovative thinking, creative problem solving, or the ability to learn fast? Could they not only figure out item #10, but do it better than some of the people who have used it, but really don’t understand how it fits with the organization’s goals? While I realize HR is under pressure from the client organization to get qualified candidates, and following the list is the simplest way to see who qualifies, still, much innovation and ‘new juice’ are being overlooked by HR departments that just don’t seem to think outside the box–or maybe, just THINK. Fostering an atmosphere of creative thinking in HR will bring a much-needed change in hiring practices, and a fresh wave of innovation to America’s businesses.