HR at the Wheel in the Innovation Ride

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on November 01, 2014

Long ago, in a far away land there was a young chap called ‘Performance’, a worker in the land’s largest book binding factory. He used to compile pages and bind them into hardcovers for sale. Of late, the books he was binding were not of consistent quality. Some had pages being misaligned, some had patches of glue on few pages while some were loosely bound. Performance’s supervisor-‘Operations’ was irked by his inconsistency and shoddy workmanship, given the fact that he had been an ace binder when he was hired by the factory’s recruiter- ‘Hefty Responsibility’ (HR as he was called). Operations went to HR for help, asking for solutions to improve Performance’s work since he was a storehouse of potential.

HR racked his brains and told Operations to get Performance married to ‘Innovation’, the magical damsel whose unique touch used to fix up any flaw. HR believed that Innovation’s presence in Performance’s life would improve his work and utilize his potential to the fullest. To convince Performance to do so, HR told Operations, he would be sent to a paid honeymoon trip for a week to the most exotic locale of his choice. Such a reward will definitely propel Performance to do as Operations pleased.

Image Courtesy:, Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot

As proposed by HR, Performance married Innovation and soon after he came back from his trip, he devised an out-of-the-box idea to uniformly bind books. It standardized the entire process and increased efficiency. This idea was novel and set a trend for all the book binding factories in the land. HR and Operations looked at each other and smiled as their efforts reached fruition

Elucidating much, the above tale speaks about the origin of the union of performance and innovation. On the same line, this article attempts to unravel the ways in which the unsung hero of every organization-HR steps up to lead, facilitate, drive and reward this union.

Before we go into what innovation is, let’s get one thing straight. Innovation is not an abstract notion which refers to only out-of-the-box thinking. Rather it is the defining element of an organization’s culture. It’s a concept so intricately enmeshed in the workplace that it becomes a way of life. Ace companies first and foremost have developed cultures where innovation is seen as everyone’s responsibility Once HR understands this, building this environment ceases to be an uphill task. As aptly put by Susan R. Meisinger (ex-CEO and president of SHRM, currently an HR consultant) that hiring creative people and developing a corporate culture that thrives on innovation should be top priorities for all HR professionals. She said that innovation doesn’t merely just happen as some might think, but that it takes a thoughtful effort to promote innovation within an organization.

The first step in creating this culture is to loosen up rigid structures. Employees should be given autonomy to think, imagine, create and present. As long as their wings of imagination are tied by the ropes of rules and regulations, it cannot breathe free and takes it flight of implementation. The next step is to break away the shackles of the ‘traditional silos’ that employees work in and promote team work, with exchange of ideas. An engineer can suggest a great advertising idea because the thing to be advertised is his brainchild. So why not hear his opinion at least? Open communication spurs innovation after all. Also, diversity rules the roost these days. Mix up two engineering grads with one form social sciences, add a little bit of regional variation and sprinkle gender equitable ratio. Voila! There is your perfect recipe for innovative products and services.

It is widely accepted among business leaders that innovation is vital to both competitive advantage and long-term success. How can HR step up in this process? Following these bullet points :

• Performance Management: Attach hefty rewards to innovative and novel thinking and see ideas pouring in.

• Learning and Development: Don’t train them-show them the way and let them unravel the path. Creative imagination can’t be ‘trained’, it needs to be cultivated.

• Recruitment and Selection: Why not pick up the creative folk at the outset? Give them the platform to fill the creative canvas with their young hues.

Last but not the least; it’s as concrete as ‘cost-cutting’ strategy. So when the world is following practices like a herd of cattle, why not you take the road less travelled by? Can the modern HR visionaries please stand up?

This article has been authored by Antara Basu from IMI Delhi




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