HR Needs to Play a Bigger Role In Driving Innovation

Leslie Stevens-Huffman is a business and careers writer based in Southern California. She has more than 20 years’ experience in the staffing industry and has been writing articles, blog posts:

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.

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