Innovation is often discussed as an activity available only to a select few people or companies. but it is an incredibly powerful tool for companies, especially when we seek ways to use our HR influence to drive a culture of innovation.

[Click here to listen to “8 Ways HR Can Drive Enterprise Innovation“]

In this episode of the We’re Only Human podcast, we point out 8 key ways that HR leaders can create, reinforce, and drive innovative behaviors in the business. In addition, we cover two common ways that companies kill motivation and innovation with their human resources practices.

Innovation as a Business Practice

Innovation is often discussed as this amorphous thing, but it is an incredibly powerful tool for companies, especially when we seek ways to use our HR influence to drive a culture of innovation. In a research report published by the International Board of Innovation Science, Dennis Stauffer explored what separates wildly successful companies from the rest. Here’s a quote from the article that sheds light on the extent to which innovation drives value:

The research with entrepreneurs is especially noteworthy because it revealed the dramatic impact that this measure of innovativeness has on value creation. When those founders who scored highest on the Innovativeness Index were compared to those who scored lowest, the ventures of the high scorers averaged 34 times as much profit, 70 times as much revenue and employed 10 times as many people. They were also dramatically more likely to be one of the exceptionally high performers that investors call a “home run” (defined in this study as having achieved at least a million dollars in annual profits).

If we’re honest, all of us would be interested in those kinds of returns. Yet, paradoxically, we are doing things on a daily basis to kill the innovation our employees could create by wasting time, creating frustration, and limiting their best performance.

How HR Often Limits Innovation and Innovative Practices

With every activity we can improve the experience of our employees or drive up frustration for them. For those of you that think this innovation talk is nonsense, here are two ideas on how to kill employee innovation for good.

  1. First, create practices that are focused on making HR’s life easier, not the employees’. Maybe you can force them to enter their information into four or five different databases whenever they need to change an address. or maybe the approval process for taking a day off requires three signatures and a blood sample. Really work hard to make their lives miserable.
  2. Secondly, introduce lots of paper, workflows and complexity as often as you can. When someone needs to offer recognition to an employee for a job well done, make them fill out a form in triplicate (kids, ask your parents if you don’t know what triplicate means) and submit to three different budget holders for approvals. Or create six different layers of performance management ratings so you can categorize your people to the nth degree without ever actually helping them to get better at their jobs.

Okay, so I’m obviously kidding about these, but do you see a little bit of reality in there? Think about your own organization and how many times these two decision points play out exactly as described here. Obviously we want to have the opposite effect, but the question is: how can we hit that target?

The Real Value of Great HR Practices: Creating a Culture of Innovation

It’s my belief that out of everything we touch in the HR profession, there are some key areas that allow us to have an unbelievable amount of influence on success and growth. One of those is innovation. There are eight key ways HR can impact innovation:

  • hiring-are we hiring people that bring innovation with them?
  • assessing-are we assessing candidates and employees for the right innovation skills that matter to our business?
  • training-are we teaching people how to put creativity into practice, which is a core requirement of innovation?
  • retention-are we keeping the people that deliver the most value and innovative ideas?
  • performance-is innovation a critical factor in our evaluation of someone’s performance?
  • recognition-are we properly recognizing the innovation people bring?
  • branding-is our company seen as an innovative firm, and is our branding doing its job?

That totals seven unique angles, but there’s one more that is often overlooked: internal HR practices and processes. HR is a competitive advantage for the firms that do it well, so we should each be seeking ways to be more effective and efficient, whether with tools or by breaking long-held processes in favor of a more streamlined approach.

Innovation isn’t a buzzword. It’s a value-creating mechanism, and HR isn’t exempt from creating and reinforcing innovation every day. Thanks for checking out the We’re Only Human show, be sure to listen to all the episodes in the archive so you can make your own HR practice a competitive advantage for your organization.

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  • 3 thoughts on “8 Powerful Ways to Create a Culture of Innovation [Podcast]

    1. This Podcast is awesome! So agree with these 8 powerful keys. Too often we focus on the bottom line. Attaining “bottom line” goals is within our people. Invest, value, and encourage people to innovate, create, and achieve. Innovation starts at the top. It has to be company culture, not just a management “catch phrase”. If management portrays a culture that is seen as, “Do as I say – not as I do”, then we fail. We fail ourselves, our company, and our people. We must be willing to lead by example. Ben, thank you for a voice of sanity.

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