Innovating HR

The word Innovation stems from a Latin word ‘Innovatus’, described as recreating the realities to a process or product from its nascent stage . This stands starkly different from the process of Creation. Furthermore, as noted by Dr.Vijay Govindarajan, the difference between the two, lies in execution. The Innovation is a step between ideation  and execution. It evolves as a natural system which mutates from one stage to another.

Here’s an excerpt from a discussion in CiteHR about an opportunity to initiate innovations. The case shares an organization with stable operations searching for innovation with budget constraints on HR Innovations.

Please let me know the HR initiatives with zero cost effect to be initiated in the Organization. My company is into Project management consultations. I want to initiate HR activities. My company is 5 yrs old and stable with 50 employees. I would like to know the initiatives to motivate the employees & to improve the employee relation. HR auditing is continuing from long back.
Here’s our suggestions to approach the problem and arrive at a solution :


  • Identify the data available ; The organization is stable with 50 employees. The processes as shared are stable with regular audits. This brings in the opportunity to innovate and consider the strategic areas of HR.
  • Set a goal in an alignment with the environmental needs – The organization seeks to establish itself as a preferred employer and offer engagement opportunities. This would allow them to consider few development based initiatives. Certain initiatives such as providing employability training post work hours might be met with resistance from the employee. Whereas starting developmental activities during the work hours would affect the production and operational deliveries.
  • Initiate and differentiate – Look beyond the obvious areas. Target for the areas that can resolve problems in the larger picture. Such as, if employee engagement is chosen as an area for improvement , creating a better and happier workplace might appear as the top most priority whereas targeting areas such as employability would solve greater problems for the employees. An action plan, including how an employee can not merely work for 8.5 hrs but invest it to become better talent, should be aimed. A program such as daily improvement meter where an employee targets any particular area identified for improvement and decides everyday action to add on to the skills. Programs such as learning an extra technical skill or a language or even a project which allows them to do what they love to do. Few such practices from the industry are shared below:
    • Microsoft launched a program ‘Hobbyist’ to promote its tech-savvy employees to develop application for windows phone.  This is not just a platform for the employees to improve on what matters to them, but add value to the organization through their innovations
    • The organizations which work with clients from different nations may consider arranging Foreign language Courses to harness the communication skills of the employees. This is a value add for the employee who might otherwise require to attend an elaborate program, beyond office hours with extra investment, which might not be possible for them to avail it.

  • Setting parameters : Define the threshold and encourage employees to move beyond it with solving problems. Help employees to identify the goals that they aim to achieve in their own program for innovation. Shared responsibility would remain the same way to make it work.
  • Foster a climate to ‘Risktakers’ : As defined by Vineet Nayar, driving out fear is the core activity to build strength and trust which fuels productivity and engagement. Certain risk when measured and allowed to take, enables the employee far beyond any training can add. It would always have an organizational and leadership constraint , yet if ventured with mitigations can reap rich benefits in the long run.
  • Measure development to the defined matrices for success: An organizational development program requires to be measured, documented and reviewed for future referrals. These initiatives may seemingly not require any investment, yet there are lot of man-hours to be invested, hence the returns would require to be measured at every stage. Define each stage of the program clearly, drawing the transition map in an alignment to the parameters.
  • Plan with precision for a fail safe implementation: Identify the first line of process owners to this program. Set the matrix for work and information flow. Define an escalation system. Identify the man hours including every tangible and intangible resources required to deliver this program. Create a stop-gap arrangement in case of any exigencies.
  • Communicate extensively : Before initiating the program, every entity to be affected by this change requires to be communicated. This needs to be managed  as a two- way communication system , encouraging participation and suggestions. This would bring in a feeling of Ubuntu, that would create greater acceptance.

The innovations work when it is best aligned with the environment. As HR , we balance the Business partner and the employee championship role. Hence plan it as described by Abraham Lincoln, “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”

  • Nathan Shepherd

    Very interesting and detailed approach, do you happen to have a case study outlining this entire process being implemented?
    Thank you

  • I was a part of two different HR Innovations mentioned in the article. The first initiative was to train different languages. We were working with clients from different nations. Very few of our employees, who were certified to work in those languages, could communicate with the client. To remove this barrier and increase communication with the wider employee base, we initiated this program. We had identified expats from those nations working in our firm, who agreed to train the employees including all those languages. It was a win-win situation as the company had a higher efficiency as we enabled the employees to communicate better. The employees stood to gain as such training would have required a huge investment by them and was practically impossible, given the work schedule they had. The Idea platform was another initiative where we allowed employees to present and work on any pet project related to their development beyond the scope of their role. It was very similar to the ‘Hobbyist’ program as practiced by Microsoft. The initiatives had followed the same steps as mentioned din the article..

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