How do you create an innovative culture within your organisation? Although employees often have a growing hunger to work at companies that are seen as innovative, research at my organisation has found that Australian businesses are less prepared than their global peers when it comes to knowing how to crack the innovation code.
The good news is that the HR function is well-positioned to crack the innovation code; to establish the culture and structural foundations for innovation to flourish – as well as the talent management practices to support this.
Here are three key steps for HR to burst open the door to corporate innovation success:
1. Create a culture of innovation
Democratise innovative actions and practices by encouraging company-wide commitment when it comes to idea generation, collaboration and creativity. Part of understanding how to crack the innovation code is recognising that it’s important to celebrate risk and failure alongside performance and results. Former group executive of HR at Seven West Media, Melanie Allibon, says their culture is based on “failing fast” and “passion and energy” which collectively drives great ideas through to completion.
While most organisations are encouraging innovation as a corporate value, for more than half this isn’t underpinned by a culture that promotes risk-taking behaviour. HR can address this disconnect through learning, performance management, diversity of thinking and leadership.
Innovation and creativity is a skill-set that can be taught. HR should create a learning culture and recruit people with learning agility – or providing learning experiences like secondments. HR can also help support “test and learn” practices by investing in mobile apps that enable continuous feedback and including innovation in performance management objectives.
Leaders need to contribute to a culture of innovation by building an environment of trust while empowering others with opportunities to innovate. Jim Nolan, vice president of global talent and organisational capability with Orica explains that “if the leader isn’t encouraging , rewarding, recognising and providing the right environment for innovation, we’re not going to have an innovative culture.”
2. Encourage workforce agility by design
Forfeiting hierarchical organisational structures and building agility into the organisation will enable businesses to innovate and respond rapidly in today’s fast-paced environment. Sandy Ogg, founder at CEO.works, believes that organisations who master this can rapidly deploy people where they will deliver the greatest business value and gain a competitive advantage.
HR can assist organisations in introducing more flexible structures by exploring different employment models and redefining roles in terms of values and outcomes. Talent mobility is also emerging as a new HR imperative which offers career development, retention and increased engagement among employees. HR can foster this by creating visible career pathways and development opportunities across the organisation.
3. Embrace technology in all its forms
HR has the potential to crack the innovation code by leading organisations through rapid digitalisation by staying on top of new technology innovations, particularly within talent management. Many technologies today provide a rich set of tools that can facilitate company-wide collaboration, drive engagement and report on productivity. For example, Metro Trains uses Virtual Reality to create a powerful learning experience. Nick Dickinson, executive general manager HR at Metro Trains, says their internal analysis shows it is delivering learning outcomes 12-times faster than past training solutions.
So for HR to crack the innovation code, it must continue to influence these three key drivers – culture, agility and technology.