June 27, 2017

HR Departments Talk About ‘Innovation’ – But Few Are Actually Innovating


For many of today’s workers, the days of the nine-to-five workday and the cubicle are long gone. Modern technology has forced savvy companies to change the way they hire and do business. Ask any HR executive, and they’ll tell you: Faced with a more flexible, evolving workforce, HR departments must innovate to recruit and retain top talent.

But talking about it isn’t enough. HR departments aren’t necessarily backing up their words with actions, according to “Driving a Culture of Innovation,” a global HR innovation survey and whitepaper from talent management software-as-a-service provider PageUp and talent acquisition and management solutions provider Alexander Mann. Only 53 percent of companies are confident that their talent acquisition strategies are building future workforce capability, and less than half believe new hires are recruited based on capabilities such as agility, innovation, and collaboration, the whitepaper shows.

It’s easy to throw around buzzwords, but more difficult to innovate in practice. Successful companies are constantly finding new ways to attract and retain top talent, and organizations that are lagging behind in these practices should take note.

“We see organizations creating a more consumer-oriented approach to HR, especially in the area of talent acquisition,” says Liz Weeks, head of employer branding for Alexander Mann Solutions. “They’re putting the candidate experience front and center, rather than being led by process. They’re using a mix of technology and human-led interactions to minimize the administrative process, enabling recruiters to spend more time interacting with candidates when and where it’s needed most.”

HR Innovation as a Core Value

In the United States, respondents to the survey were even less likely to be practicing innovation in talent acquisition. Only 59 percent of U.S. companies listed “innovation” as a corporate value, compared to 75 percent of their global competitors. In addition, only 53 percent of U.S. companies said they were prioritizing innovation over the next 12 months, compared to 64 percent globally.

This means there’s quite a bit of room for improvement, especially considering the increasingly global nature of the remote workforce.

“U.S. companies have been leaders in implementing processes and systems, and that’s driven everything from product development to HR to innovation,” says Weeks. “From an HR perspective, we think there’s still room for U.S. companies to improve how they interact with employees and candidates in order to understand what motivates them and what drives their behavior. This includes fostering their ability and motivation to innovate on behalf of the company.”

Businesses searching for ways to make those improvements must be prepared to implement communication channels up and down the corporate ladder.

“I think it’s all about creating two-way communication at every level of the business – not just at the management level where most organizations expect innovation to happen,” Weeks says. “It’s about ensuring that employees have access to management in an informal, open format where they don’t feel inhibited to share their ideas.”

Many organization are using social media and collaboration tools like Yammer and Slack to make innovation a more inclusive and collaborative effort. This, in turn, fuels more and better breakthroughs.

For a long time, it was enough to hire employees solely based on education and skill set. Today’s economic climate demands more. Businesses that don’t find ways to identify candidates who support and provide value to innovative initiatives may find themselves beneath the bar in terms of recruitment practices. If businesses hope to continue competing for top talent, HR departments have to place talent – both within and outside of human resources – that supports these goals.

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Jason McDowell holds a BS in English from the University of Wisconsin-Superior and an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. By day, he works as a mild-mannered freelance writer and business journalist. By night, he spends time with his wife and dogs, writes novels and short stories, and tries in vain to catch up on all of those superhero television shows.