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How Can Innovation Program Leadership Benefit From Partnering with HR?

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I am very much looking forward to the upcoming Back
End of Innovation
conference in Las Vegas (October 6-8). I have
been attending a lot of these events in the past (check out a recent
article that I prepared around this
) and I have noted an increasing number
of HR professionals participating in these sessions. About bloody time I say.
In my experience, every company that I work with ranks their
HR group as performing poorly (sorry guys, but it's true). Unfortunately, they
are the insurance salesmen of the corporate world. Perceived as being unloved,
inflexible, inefficient but undeniably necessary. So when I talk with
program leadership about looking for opportunities to partner
with HR groups, I often don't get a very unfavorable response, but I have to
explain to them that there is a whole bunch of reasons to pursue this.
As organizations build ever more sophisticated innovation-based
of activity, their influence and impact is spreading across the
organization. Business leaders are making investments in innovation in order to
respond not only to shorter-term marketplace trends, but more broadly to secure
the long-term prosperity of the organization.
The reality is that HR leaders have traditionally had a lot
of influence within an organization, especially in service businesses. As a
result, they can be valued allies to newer innovation leads, who may be looking
to secure their position in the corporate hierarchy. In addition, there are
many parallels between Innovation and HR groups, such as:
Both groups generally seek to provide influence
across an organization, without directly having direct resource control
They are both seeking alignment with value
creation within an organization
They are both viewed as 'softer' areas within a
More and more, they share goals and aspirations
for the organization
At the least, HR and Innovation leaders should be partnering
to support existing innovation programs within their organization. At best,
they should be jointly creating and owning innovation activities, that drive
towards a more strategic cultural enhancement. Unfortunately I only
occasionally see active partnership between these groups and rarely do I see
ownership and direction of innovation programs coming from HR teams.
This lack of partnership between leadership represents a
significant missed opportunity for both groups of professionals, as they seek
to add business value and shake the often held perception of a disconnection
from the direction of the businesses. The headlong drive towards innovation
goals expressed by corporate leadership represents a significant opportunity
for both groups to align more effectively in the development of real business
value and shared perception improvements. In short, this is an opportunity that
shouldn't be missed.
Below I have listed an overview of activities where
Innovation and HR leaders can easily partner. As with any list I produce, this
is in no way exhaustive and I welcome your input and thoughts:
Innovation Awards and
' HR and innovation programs can actively partner in
establishing and supporting awards and incentives programs directed at
individuals or groups of employees, in order to encourage their innovative
behaviors and activities. Managing these efforts can get a little tricky in global
organizations, but it is important to focus on what types of incentives will
likely drive new behavior and create a positive overall impression.
Run an Innovation Challenge
' Everyone is impacted by HR issues within an organization, so why not run an employee
innovation challenge/campaign focused on a single HR related issue. It is a
great way to show that HR is open to input from the broader organization and a
public endorsement of partnership. Keep in mind though, that you do need to
implement the winning idea from this effort.
Innovation Training
' Increasingly companies are training their employees around the skills of
innovation, in order to expand the capacity to execute ideas and create a base
of employees connected with innovative thinking. In the past this training
focused on leadership needs, but there is renewed activity in training mid-junior
level employees on elements of the innovation process, such as business plan
development, ideation techniques, development planning, etc.
Employee Innovation
Network Development
' HR and innovation teams can actively partner to build
and support networks of employees who share a common interest around driving
innovation. It is easy to forget how hard it can be to push against the status
quo, especially in large, process driven organizations and these networks
provide a supporting environment and an opportunity to further develop ideas.
Both groups can partner to develop a strategic framework to guide these
efforts, as well as provide tools (such as libraries of articles, templates,
videos and policy guidance) to support the ongoing management.
Competencies within Goal Setting and Review Process
' By including
innovation activity as part of the annual goal setting and review process, HR
can play an active role in emphasizing the leadership priority down into the
organization. The message is that this is an important opportunity for career development,
and is owned by employees at all levels within the organization.
Innovation Activity
as a Path to Leadership Development Efforts
' There are various points of
entry or assessment for employees to participate in leadership development
programs. By including an individual's participation in innovation related
activities as a point of entry for these programs, HR sends an encouraging
message and introduces new thinking and profiles within these efforts.
Employee Credits and Movement
' Innovation programs often require mobility of resources to help develop new
ideas. HR and innovation professionals can help develop programs and efforts to
support this kind of movement across the organization in order to speed the
flow of executed ideas.
Employee Engagement
and Organizational Perceptions
' By including innovation as a metric and
reference point within employee engagement surveys and assessments, HR can
track results and changes over time, as well as emphasis its importance to
Develop Innovation
Cultural Framework
' Given that leadership is talking about innovation as a
business imperative, HR leaders can develop a framework that encourages a
culture of innovation over a sustained period of time. To enact this, companies
are often undertaking innovation maturity assessment exercises.
As mentioned, this is not an exhaustive list, but it does
provide some examples where both innovation and HR professionals can partner to
drive towards a culture of innovation within their organization, and align with
leadership's goals. Let me know if you can come up with any specific examples
of activities that you have seen in the marketplace.

About the Author:
Anthony Ferrier is the CEO of Culturevate (www.culturevateinc.com), an
organization that empowers a company's employees to execute ideas and inspire a
culture of innovation, through employee networks, a resource portal and
training programs (developed in association with Professor
Chris Labash
 from Carnegie
Mellon University
). Anthony is a widely read author (www.culturevateinc.com), speaker and
advisor to industry leaders at organizations such as Pfizer, U.S. Postal
Service, Johnson & Johnson, ADP and Fidelity. He previously led The BNY
Mellon innovation program and has a Masters of Commerce (University of Sydney) and Bachelor of
Economics (University of Newcastle).

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