By Octavio Ballesta
Strengthen transformational leadership skills, invest in state-of-the-art technology, and steer management’s vision to favour reinventing the business—all these contribute to building an innovation culture able to equip companies in today’s fast-paced world with the versatility and flexibility needed in order to meet their productivity and profitability targets. Under such conditions a solid and sustainable competitive edge can be built.
On their own, these practices are not enough to reinforce the innovative spirit of a company wanting to be competitive in the knowledge economy.
It is important to empower these initiatives with a high potential for transformation through people management practices updated with greater process maturity, alignment to strategy, focus on people and management influence. Such initiatives will more effectively help to bring together the talent mix, the aggregate of collective experiences, generational diversity, converging career paths, disparate interests, dissimilar personality attributes and the development of highly varied professional skills. All this comes together to exalt the potential for transformation of an enterprise, so it can ultimately bring value to and please customers, compete in their relevant markets, and define market trends under very volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous business circumstances like in today’s world.
There are still those who believe that the ability to generate new business models, design streamlined processes or revamp our product and services portfolio is done under top management’s mandate and influence. Even though we have declared that innovation is our key strategic driver, we still have not ventured to promote changes in the mindset of people. We are reactive to reshaping our systems; we are paralyzed by the fear of transforming culture and we avoid shaking up the organizational architecture with the necessary changes.
It is unrealistic to build an innovative culture within an organization by enabling a new functional silo deployed as a classic R&D and innovation department. This will always be exposed to and influenced by corporate culture. It will be subject to the prevailing leadership style and it will absorb the impact of cognitive biases that inhibit creativity. It will be conditioned by the urgency of presenting tangible short-term results. It will also confront the restrictive effect of people management policies that hamper the exchange of disparate ideas, reject exploring new concepts and question learning through inadvertent errors.
Long-term success is not guaranteed for a company that becomes a leader in a mature market and pays little attention to the strategic imperative to invest time, talent and resources to constantly reinvent itself. More agile and versatile companies with deep insight may develop abilities to challenge the established status quo and invade different market segments with new and better products and services.
Talent networks: opportunities for HR
Business innovation happens when the creative expression of talented individuals is linked to a purpose that is important for the company, the individual and the society and leads to new and better ways of doing things.
Innovative culture manifests in high-performance teams. It comes from the creative activity among highly diverse and good talent who take inspiration from the meaningful vision that transformational leaders have. It is empowered by state-of-the-art technology and it grows in highly collaborative environments. It is also strengthened by intrinsic motivation factors appropriate for excellent talent management practices.
Let’s define then how would the HR function participate with enough influence, organizational visibility and transformational potential in order to strengthen people management and talent networks which are important for building an innovation culture.
- Enrich the professional competencies system, by adding skills that are suitable for innovation cultures like that of transformational leadership or intrapreneurship.
- Strengthen corporate programmes for work-life balance, adding new benefits and intrinsic motivation factors to create healthy work environments rich in opportunities for professional development, with facilities for promoting personal growth and which are designed to be adaptable to the different expectations and lifestyles of everyone.
- If necessary replace the enforced annual performance evaluation based on ranking criteria with a continual feedback model focused on developing people in a coaching environment.
- Encourage autonomous, collaborative and accelerated talent development of individuals based on their strengths in their skill set which make them unique, important and valuable.
- Apply talent segmentation practices adapted to the expectations and interests of different collectives and groups that form part of functional areas and teams using modern diversity and inclusion criteria.
- Take down the perverse effect of functional silos that conspire against horizontal knowledge transfer in the business by opening up the organization to full, productive and mass use of social technologies complemented by cloud apps and mobile devices.
- Implement a competitive compensation plan, where the variable is significantly greater for professionals assigned to innovation teams
- Manage knowledge broadly using business criteria to contribute to the development of communities of practices, personal learning environments, MOOCs, innovation ecosystems and talent networks.
- Access to preferential company shares of the company to strengthen motivation, involvement and engagement of high potential talent..
- Accelerate people training and development by involving leaders in the development of their people and promote career opportunities in different fields, roles and projects.
Space for reflection
Business innovation processes are nurtured by contrasting ideas put forward and analyzed from multiple perspectives. Innovation is strengthened through transformational input from emerging technologies that favour access to collective intelligence in rich and versatile collaborative environments.
We need firm support from business managers and leaders who believe in the need to engage business transformation as an initiative to add new business value. It is important to stimulate input of multigenerational talent; diverse interests, varied careers, diverse life experiences to come together in a collaborative environment where generational activities, exploration and discovery of ideas unfold completely naturally in the creation of new and better business models, products and services.
Right in this scenario of transitioning to a new business order full of challenges, opportunities and learning is where HR can step in. Going beyond its traditional role as a reliable provider of transactional services in people management, HR can take on the role of an advisor and change agent for business transformation to serve business areas of the company.