Innovation may be one of the buzzwords de jour, with executives from Silicon Valley to Wall Street tossing the term around freely and frequently in equal measure.
For most human resources professionals, the need for innovation is concentrated in one primary area: employee engagement.
Nearly 60 percent of HR professionals said increasingemployee engagement is the top imperative driving the need to foster innovation, according to a survey by Human Capital Media Advisory Group, the research arm of Talent Managementmagazine. The second business imperative, according to 37 percent of HR professionals, is to create a competitive advantage (Figure 1).
The survey, conducted in June 2014, polled 174 HR professionals from companies of varying sizes and industries.
Meanwhile, just 19 percent of HR professionals said that “new product and service development” was among the leading business imperatives for HR innovation.
According to the survey, just 20 percent of talent managers said their departments have a specific innovation initiative, while 32 percent said their departments have an innovation initiative “to some extent.” Nearly half of respondents (47 percent) said they did not have an innovation initiative at their HR departments.
Most survey respondents said HR has been asked at least partly to increase organizational innovation. About 35 percent said HR has been asked to increase innovation at their companies, while 45 percent said they had been asked “to some extent.” Nearly 19 percent said HR had not been asked to increase innovation at their companies.
Learning and development topped the list of which HR functions are most involved with innovation. Roughly 65 percent of survey respondents said the learning function was the most involved with innovation initiatives, while talent acquisition (47 percent) and leadership development (45 percent) rounded out the top three.
Among the least-involved HR functions when it comes to innovation: succession planning (25 percent), performance management (42 percent) and HR technology (42 percent), the survey showed (Figure 2).
To foster innovation, most HR professionals said their companies use cross-functional teams (60 percent), followed by learning events (50 percent) and knowledge management (40 percent), according to the survey (Figure 3).
Communities of practice, task force initiatives and collaborative technologies were the least-used by HR use to foster innovation, the survey showed.
Creating a collaborative work environment is among the top priorities for HR when it comes to contributing to innovation, according to the survey.
About 40 percent of HR professionals in the survey said the department had been tasked with creating a collaborative work environment at their organizations, while 46 percent said they had been “to some extent.” Just 16 percent said the HR function had not been tasked to create a collaborative work environment at their companies (Figure 4).
When asked to detail how their HR department fosters a collaborative work environment, some respondents said:
“Lunch and learns to bring different departments together to learn how each other can assist with new business.”
“Develop effective communication skills among the colleagues, and have a continuous feedback of evaluations.”
“Increasing communication and removing geographical barriers by using social media tools — Yammer, Skype, etc. — to help facilitate that communication. Breaking down silos by creating cross-functional teams and task forces [and] tying incentives to group and team accomplishments.”