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HR strategic innovation - one key to transformational leadership

Release Date

10 December 2013

We now know HR innovation and transformational leadership paridyms grow from establishing a culture of engagement and growth for staff that offers challenge coupled with support. Targeting innovation as a business related objective though for human resources is an obvious strategic move beneficial for both the organisation and HR.  Within HR itself there are plenty of opportunities to leverage novel approaches as well, so HR comes to be seen as a model in the lead in actually innovating, moreso than a lag indicator when times are tough. 

Among innovations in terms of recruiting for example are cases where organisations have netted numerous hard-to-find programers by the simple means of running an open house in the ICT department.  In this case potential candidates could tour and meet their prospective bosses and team mates. Today this would be considered minor, but a couple of decades ago it was fairly revolutionary.  Another huge innovation in the retail industry where sales staff shortages exist, recruiters advertise on the back of bus and subway transfers, with a sort of mini application to be dropped at the nearest store. What a drawing card for bored commuters looking for a change of work scenery, and it works!  HR consultants could be more innovative too, and some are, though lots seem to try only for a slightly better version of another applicant tracking system or another course in basic skills.

One innovation that has struck as truly new is a novel program offered by organisations particularly in the oil and mining regions of Northern Australia, where recruits are scarce and many new hires jump to the next company for higher wages, is where recruits are invited to an open day and provided with a complete overview of the company both operationally and strategically, provided lunch, free training in managing conflict, stress and fatigue, access to machinery and training that could be used on job, job preference assessments and a 'take away' report of their strengths and weaknesses in support of how they may improve and bring those improvements back to the organisation as evidence they have built their capabilities further, if they have not been successful at this recruitment ocassion.  Moreso, applicants are able to demonstrate their commitment, resilience and emotional intelligence.  The constant job hopping and turnover has been a devastating challenge throughout those economic arenas for years, so any new approach with this sort of promise of lowering turnover is always big news and a big event in regional centres and probably metropolitan locations as well.  The creative insight here is this endless career disruption isn’t very strategic for the workers either, since they don’t develop careers at all, just a series of “same again” basic jobs and they don’t invest the time or save the money that would set them up for life.  What a great idea to help them see it and thereby help companies hang onto them. It’s just such insights that distinguish truly better solutions to long-standing problems that make us ask, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

It’s nice to note as well that something can be targeted as great for potential employees and also benefit the company. We know it should be so, but how many programs are primarily designed for organisational as well as potential candidates needs first?  The fact is we can think up these things. Necessity is the mother of invention but, even more than requiring someone to come at the problem from a new viewpoint, it takes someone who isn’t just hand-wringing about the severity of the problem. Rather, it takes someone who resolves to try new approaches.

The world progresses because quite a few people actually do try and some stick to it long enough to hone methods that work better, which everyone eventually copies. The key word here, is eventually. By then the innovator has had more ideas and worked out more bugs.  The good news is, just as when innovating within orgnanisations, those who generate such ideas are often best and first at implementing them. Others may try but often lack the insight and consistent commitment to make them fully workable. Even the persistent problem of “someone stole credit for my idea” really isn’t the problem it’s often made out to be.

Mostly, people around the organisation have a pretty clear idea who the innovators are because they do it over and over. It’s a set of habits built into a skill like any other. It takes time and practice to develop a pattern of thinking up great ideas. Not all work, so it takes time to sort out which do. But that requirement usually means others can’t get ahead of you even by copying, unless you stop innovating and let things slide.  The even bigger help is, if you’re a manager or team leader, showing the example brings out the best in your team members who likewise learn to try their ideas. The accumulation begins to be really significant if you keep this going over time. That’s just one key engagement strategy revealed in its underlying operating strategy – innovation all the time helps create transformational leadership.

Larry Forsyth
Senior Manager WHS & HR Consulting Services

About the Author

Larry Forsyth is a Senior Manager at the Australian Business Solutions Group. He is an experienced CEO and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management from CQ University and has completed the Executive Coaching Program at the University of Sydney. Larry is currently providing direction and leadership to the WHS/HR consulting team at Australian Business Solutions Group. Larry is available as a strategic HR consultant and can be contacted at larry.forsyth@australianbusiness.com.au

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