HR can actively encourage and support innovation by developing the capabilities, behaviours and organisational culture which drive it. There is much talk of the so called fourth industrial revolution – characterised by a fusion of various technologies such as artificial intelligence, biotech and the internet of things which blur the lines between physical, biological and digital spheres. Innovation is at the heart of this. Innovation, critically, is a potential source of competitive advantage.
HR must not miss an opportunity here and should be seen to be encouraging innovation and helping to drive it forward. Perception, as we know counts for a lot. HR needs to be perceived by the business as an advocate, facilitator and a key player in innovation, not as a stumbling block or a blocker through various processes and procedures which may frustrate innovation.
How can HR therefore, play a key role?
• Organisational culture: Research evidence continues to demonstrate that open environments are particularly conducive to innovation and creativity. The challenge for HR continues to be helping to create and nurture the environment that breeds creative behaviour in organisations.
• Organisational design: The creation of appropriate structures and channels which facilitate the clear exchange of ideas across functions and the entire organisation.
• Reward: Recognition schemes can be utilised to encourage employees to be creative and innovative. Pay systems and incentives can reward innovative ideas and their dissemination.
• Performance management: The design of systems and processes which ensure that innovation is an important part of the objective setting and appraisal process.
• Change management: The creation and implementation of appropriate new processes and working practices which fuel innovation.
• Training and development: Encouraging and developing the critical behaviours and skills which employees need to successfully innovate. This ranges from induction all the way through to the development options which are available to employees.
• Building knowledge networks: Facilitating the creation of appropriate networks and groups which discuss and disseminate ideas throughout the organisation.
• Policies and procedures: Building flexibility into HR policies and processes is crucial so that innovation can be encouraged rather than be stifled by rigid and bureaucratic processes.
• Recruitment and selection: The sourcing of appropriate talent who understand the importance of innovation and display appropriate behaviours such as creativity and problem solving.
This aforementioned demonstrates that HR has a tangible and important role to play – which in essence, impacts most of its key areas of activity. HR therefore, is in a unique position concerning innovation in organisations.
HR needs to rise to the challenge. This can only aid its credibility and impact in organisations.
The innovation opportunity must be fully embraced and not squandered.