Leadership, Strategic HR

How HR Leaders Drive Innovation

HR leaders shouldn’t underestimate the impact they can have on an organization. While they might spend a lot of time doing nitty-gritty tasks like ensuring document accuracy and keeping current with compliance updates, they can also play the critical role of driving innovation.

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Inert Begets Inert: HR to the Rescue

Any organization with designs on achieving excellence relies on innovation. Without the innovative spark, even a solid 10-year plan can become a 5-year bust. Who drives innovation? The odds are that a task might not be part of anyone’s specific job description.

However, the opportunity for such a driver rests squarely with HR leaders. And why not? They create and implement policies, help set strategic goals, and help select and onboard the very foundation of any organization: the employees.

Experts know that innovation struggles to thrive at the hand of existing processes. Indeed, objects at rest tend to stay at rest, and that is very true of an organization that has gotten a little too comfortable with the status quo. HR plays a big part in the processes that can either ignite or extinguish the innovative spark: it creates organizational policies and practices, helps define management structures, connects with leaders about strategy, and influences an organization’s culture.

For this reason, HR is in the perfect place to help encourage and facilitate innovation and apply the energy needed to get a stagnant organization moving again by realizing the full potential of its people.

How to Get Things Moving

To encourage a culture of innovation, an HR leader must use everything at his or her disposal, including fostering creative talent, offering useful frameworks to support that talent, and keeping in mind that innovation is a team effort.

Creative Talent

Most HR managers handle selecting and onboarding staff. This process is their chance to mold the organization’s people infrastructure into one dotted with creativity. By selecting applicants who show a tendency for creativity and innovation, you can seed an organization with the creative capital it needs to flourish.

Encouraging Creativity

Simply hiring new creative and innovative candidates will not be enough. Nothing stifles creativity more assuredly than surrounding creative people with people who lack confidence that they can be creative or who have given up. Getting your existing workforce to a more innovative space might be the most challenging part of creating an innovative workplace, but it also can be the most powerful—and one that supports new creative hires to thrive.

Experts talk about introducing tension as an effective method of fostering innovation. For example, creating healthy challenges or competitions among your existing workforce can bring out their creative side. Generally speaking, challenges force people to innovate just to meet the challenge. If you make that challenge about innovation in general, you can make some real headway.

It Takes a Village

Encouraging new types of teamwork can help you leverage both new and established creative people to innovate on a whole new level. That means designing projects that will bring people together who haven’t done so before or giving new projects to existing teams that will offer them a new challenge.

Experts sometimes suggest that a team that is innovating might appear to be a team that is playing—and there is nothing wrong with that. Encouraging a healthy, playful approach to fostering team innovation can really make it feel natural and easy for teammates to make great strides.

Working with Limited Resources

Some might resist changes that can lead to innovation because it can be perceived as requiring something entirely new (and therefore costly). But working with limited resources can be extremely valuable for encouraging innovation. Giving your employees a chance to introduce a solution with the resources at hand will bring people together and get them thinking in new ways.

Additionally, allowing teams to determine which outside solutions are needed can often help you identify a variety of solutions, including those that are low cost.

Finally, by accessing the diversity of thought available in teams, you might identify solutions that are not unnecessarily broad and can solve the problems at hand efficiently.

 Where to Get Started

Here is how to identify new ways of fostering and facilitating innovation and entrepreneurship.