Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Enabling Innovation

The last decade has marked the coming of age of the Human Resources function as a strategic partner to business. This evolution can be largely attributed to the innovations that the Human Resources function had incorporated in its systems and processes over the last decade. Through outsourcing and enabling technologies, HR was able to hive off and automate a significant amount of the low value and repetitive work that would take away most of its productive time a few years back. With more time and resources, HR was now able to focus on strategy and planning, and the fact that the time was well spent is borne by the fact that today most Fortune 500 organisations have an HR seat on the Board. There have been significant advances in aligning compensation and benefits with business results and direction, bringing together a diverse workforce to adapt to the global village phenomenon, and in recruitment and skills development processes. While all these efforts have given forward-looking organisations a competitive edge over their peers, HR’s most significant contribution towards the creation of winning organisations has been and would be in creating a culture of innovation. With the commoditisation of even high-value, complex-technology products, the organisation of the future which wants to stay ahead of the pack would have to be necessarily innovating continuously in systems, processes, products and services. These organisations will need to continuously recruit people who are innovation champions, and having recruited them, provide them an atmosphere which encourages innovation while helping them upgrade their skills.

As far as innovation is concerned, the head of the Human Resources function could well be the most important person of your organisation. The most powerful force and differentiator in business is culture. While it might be a stretch to say that corporate culture is the sole responsibility of HR, the people who are hired and the training and cultural imperatives placed on the business are done so through HR, and this is where HR can have a big impact on whether or not the firm is culturally attuned to innovation. There is a perception in the business community that innovation is the responsibility of a product team or a business head. We must understand that not all employees are innovative, nor would everyone be able to internalise or institutionalise innovation. Innovation springs from the minds of creative individuals working in an environment that spawns and encourages innovation. Attracting and keeping the most innovative people, constantly improving their skills, and creating a culture that supports innovation will enable the organisation to create a sustainable advantage.

In this issue, we have deliberated on the innovations that HR has internalised over the last decade. Across the board, practitioners and business leaders agree that HR has evolved to create strategic business value. It is now time to step up the tempo and proactively start creating value for the future through championing the innovation culture. Institutionalised innovation will be the gamechanger of the future, and businesses will look up to HR to be the innovation enabler.

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