We’re all finally recognizing that management and innovation are social activities – people activities. So it has struck me as rather odd that HR is hardly mentioned in the conversation. Why? Well, perhaps it’s because corporate management & HR have a 20th Century mindset towards HR. What we need is a 21st Century mindset, especially given the increasingly social aspect of “work” and the talents of our Gen-X/Y/Z etc.
Most companies view HR in very traditional ways, both management and HR management - they take on tactical vs strategic roles. Since Innovation is all about people, in an ideal world, it would make sense for HR to be integrally involved, right? But that's rarely the case.
Use HR to facilitate both getting the right cross-functional, cross-geographic, cross-disciplinary teams together and facilitate the actual innovation sessions, be they brainstorming/ideation, process, execution, pipeline management etc. HR could help
put strategically/innovation focused people into decision and influence making positions;
design the organization's structure, reinvent/innovate roles & responsibilities, increase multi-discipline knowledge flows, internally and with external partners and provide tools
address organizational cross-functional, cross-geography, cross-disciplinary challenges and obstacles
train people to apply the learnings from failure, prototype, iterate, reapply etc.
help the organization overcome FEAR - of the unknown, of losing control, of looking stupid, failing, punishment, peer pressure, etc. through helping to shape the culture, encouraging the needed leadership and providing some tools to help overcome that fear
HR is like the 'Switzerland' - they (hopefully) are function & business neutral so they can be objective throughout the innovation ideation, process etc. as well as being aware of the human capital needs in terms of skills, talents, knowledge and roles
Allows HR to better understand the business' opportunities, challenges, issues and find people (hire, reposition, etc.) for the individual's success as well as the business'
Easier to include right innovation 'metrics' and performance factors into overall performance management
Positions HR in a more strategic role in the organization for other initiatives - elevating the role and importance of 'people' as a corporate priority
Enables HR to become a more attractive career path since the focus is strategic vs. tactical and many of the skills needed for this role are easily used in other roles
Assess the talents and skills of your HR people
Train them on facilitation if needed
Let them start with an innovation project that has a fairly good probability of success, that people are excited to participate in, and that represent a good cross-functional/geographic/discipline opportunity
Mike Riegsecker, GM Neenah Complex, Menasha Packaging - for not knowing enough to know this wasn't a good idea and going for it. One of the few examples I've ever seen of HR being used strategically