The role of HR in fostering innovation


Innovation is the heart of all companies. It entails replacing old goods, service or ideas with new ones. The new model comes with the capability to help the organisation grow, continue to be relevant and differentiate itself from other organisations. In addition, the newness puts the company in a better position to respond to market opportunities and challenges.

The Human resource function is mainly responsible for shaping a company’s innovative culture. Building a culture of innovation involves all employees and management. Specific policies and action have to be in place for the culture to succeed. HR is in the middle of all these people, policies and structures to ensure they align with the innovation goal. The beauty of this is that modern HR function has a more strategic role. They are mandated with serving both the people and the organisation. Therefore, this privileged position puts them in the driver’s seat as far as innovation culture matters. Some of the ways  HR function can help in pushing the innovative culture agenda in companies include:

1. Hire creative talents who will push the innovative culture agenda from beginning to end.

2. Support the innovative agenda through continually developing the talents, creativity and skills through learning, development and training.

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3. Avail required resources. Innovation is resource-intensive, from money and equipment to time. Innovation also goes hand in hand with technology.  Establishing a well-equipped innovation lab provides healthy ground to nurture innovation.

4. Use business value creation metrics during performance reviews instead of the traditional revenue generation, work output metrics. Analyse the sustainability of the value. Ideas developed, and how many are being actualised. These metrics hold a lot of weight when it comes to measuring the success of innovation culture.

5. Encouraging collaborations: collaboration is an essential component of innovation. It brings together unique sets of knowledge and skills to spark the innovation magic. The different perspective and ideas blend to give birth to a distinctive viewpoint. In a modern workplace environment that highly encourages competition, HR should encourage and promote a collaborative work culture for innovation to take place.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.- R. Emerson

6. Encourage discovery by having a reward system that recognises innovation and all its efforts. The rewards can range from financial incentive to non-financial ones such as promotion, percentage stake in the discovery revenues and many others. The compensation should be equivalent to the nature of the innovation, i.e. Macro or micro innovation.

7. Have structures in place that sustain innovation. With the help of IT personnel and management, HR should follow through with the invention to ensure it does not fall off the cracks. For example, having an incentive for when the innovation hits the market or calling in mentors and experts to help execute or motivate the innovators will go a long way in maintaining an exploratory culture.

8. Create a workplace environment that supports innovation. The workspace should be able to stimulate creative thinking. Office design and layout should inspire creativity. Creatives should be comfortable taking risks. Freedom and flexibility in how work is done should be encouraged. Maybe a change in scenery is what will spark a new idea.

9. Constant communication: Innovation culture in an ongoing process. Communicate the innovation culture agenda when interviewing the talent and regularly during internal meetings. Feedback and constructive criticism should be encouraged. Ways to promote the innovation culture should be sort and addressed during these meetings.

10. Lead by example. HR cannot be spearheading an innovative culture from an office full of box files or using 2010 software. Constantly and actively look out for modern trends and innovation on matters HR and adopt them. Automate the necessary HR function to focus more on the strategy and decision making bit.

To all HR specialists, Innovation has been acknowledged as the most significant source of competitive advantage. Human resource is considered the most valuable asset in today’s competitive market. Be innovation enablers. Continue encouraging, nurturing and promoting practices that foster innovation.

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