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The Futurist: Innovation challenges for HR

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HR has the opportunity and responsibility to hire capable, diverse people with ideas and the capacity to think “out of the box”, says Lelia Konyn, head of human resources and corporate affairs at Shun Shing Group.

Companies increasingly call for innovation to stimulate growth, update business models, increase performance and appeal to customers.

The logic is simple: companies need to innovate to stay current, compete and create value and many are grappling with the realisation that “what got us here will not take us forward”. Hence, the need to engage employees and create processes conducive to business innovation overall.

Enter HR. As the custodian of people strategy and processes, HR has a tremendous opportunity to hire capable, diverse people with ideas and the capacity to think “out of the box”. HR is also the custodian of organisation design, and is often put in charge of corporate culture. People, organisation and culture is all it takes to foster innovation.

So why isn’t there more innovation about? Because the very aspects that offer HR tremendous opportunities offer significant challenges:

1. Once capable and diverse people are hired, they are integrated

Integration means embracing the company culture and the way things are done. Fitting in. Divergent ideas challenging the status quo are suppressed or watered down. The comfort of groupthink sets in.

2. Hierarchies, size, complexity

Most companies are systemically not built to facilitate, sustain or nurture innovation. Few are the hierarchies in which bosses’ ideas, decisions or processes can be questioned and debated openly and consistently as a process.

Matrix organisations increase complexity: numerous functions, business units and locations often operate in silos with poor co-ordination, information flow and slow decision-making.

3. Culture

Corporate culture defines the acceptable way to act and work within an organisation. Complacency, lack of process to speak up and debate, fear of making mistakes in a blame culture, change aversion, endless emails and meetings are not conducive to innovation.

So what can HR do?

  • Identify the inherent challenges in the organisation and devise a plan to overcome them – in a staged process, one by one, over a defined period of time.
  • Work with the board, CEO or region head to create separate units for innovation, populating them with a multiplicity of talent, disciplines and generations.
  • Formalise high-up sponsorship and accountability for innovation.
  • Ensure resources are provided: infrastructure, money and time.
  • Create a framework to incentivise ideas and reward innovative outcomes.
  • Persevere!

The June 2017 issue of Human Resources magazine is a special edition, bringing you interviews with 12 HR leaders, with their predictions on the future of HR.

Read The Futurist or subscribe here.

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