The way we work: Embedding innovation DNA for the digital era

Uma Ganesh | February 1, 2021 |

Since innovation requires the right culture and environment to be seeded first before it can flourish and demonstrate results, HR function has a key role to play

Business innovation is a priority for organisations adopting digital technologies. However since innovation requires the right culture and environment to be seeded first before it can flourish and demonstrate results, HR function has a key role to play.

In order for HR function to support and facilitate innovation become the DNA of the business, to begin with, it has to address this requirement at its own home turf first. Based on the technology and business trends, HR function has the opportunity to either support the business requirements or contribute towards redefining the business model on the strength of innovation it is able to bring about in its functioning.

If the stated business goal is to scale the business substantially, or enhance customer experience or reduce overall costs, HR function’s innovation initiative would have to focus on areas such as recruiting at scale within the given timelines at optimal costs or hiring quality talent with niche skills or providing analytics of productivity of resources deployed to help businesses which have more than 50-60% costs on account of people cost. With the increasing access to digital technologies, proposals such as work from anywhere, introduction of robots as part of the workforce, supporting diversity as a practical consideration to tap the right talent and creating niche channels for talent resourcing are some examples that are being considered by organisations.

Creating the belief that more is possible with less calls for a mindset change, specially in large organisations. Innovation efforts could deliver significant yields when HR function pays attention on getting the most out of the already available assets— the people resources of the organisation. This would require detailed planning to identify the current skill sets for the roles being performed, outlining the emerging roles in every function, mapping of how current resources match upto the expectations of new roles as well as their own aspirations and thereafter, creating personalised career paths for each employee. There are opportunities for disruptive innovation too in HR functioning on the strength of digital tools. Rethinking annual appraisal system, doing away with the Bell curve for performance assessment, tying innovation initiative to performance appraisal, hierarchy based organisation structure are some of the areas that organisations have started to address. Innovation is a journey— an ongoing process —hence creating a permanent culture for nurturing innovation is the critical success factor that would eventually help the business to remain competitive.

The fine example of 3M in facilitating innovation and empowering individuals to take their ideas to business fruition has won many laurels but very few organisations have been able to consistently live this potential. Three things that HR leaders should do to make innovation the DNA of their organisation – demonstrate their commitment to innovation by working towards impactful outcomes within HR function, build an ecosystem to support innovation by being constantly on the look out for new digital tools and startups to work with, and facilitate businesses to make innovation an ongoing journey with milestones to be achieved along the way.

Originally appeared in Financial Express