Strategic Innovation in Human Resource Management

Businesses can recapture the innovative spirit that initially launched their success. It has been done in companies old and new, big and small, and in just about every industry you can imagine. Each case is different, but there are three common threads. First, corporate leaders recognized the intellectual capital and potential that resided within their own employees. Second, they turned to the Human Resources Department to find the key to unlocking that potential and putting that capital to work. Third, the company reaped tremendous rewards in terms of productivity and profitability as a result. What is common to each strand of this process is the importance of HR departments to the process of strategic innovation.

Ideas are the lifeblood of business success. Most of today’s corporate giants began with little more than a great idea and an entrepreneurial gleam in their eye. They leveraged their intellectual capital to build financial strength. Yet, along the way, many corporations lose the ability to innovate and take risks. Entrepreneurship gives way to entropy, and new ideas are relegated to the suggestion box in the employee cafeteria.

It does not have to be that way.

Businesses can recapture the innovative spirit that initially launched their success. It has been done in companies old and new, big and small, and in just about every industry you can imagine. Each case is different, but there are three common threads.

  1. First, corporate leaders recognized the intellectual capital and potential that resided within their own employees.
  2. Second, they turned to the Human Resources Department to find the key to unlocking that potential and putting that capital to work.
  3. Third, the company reaped tremendous rewards in terms of productivity and profitability as a result.

What is common to each strand of this process is the importance of HR departments to the process of strategic innovation.

Rarely are the terms “strategic innovation” and “human resources” uttered in the same breath. HR departments in many corporations have come to be little more than service providers-offering basic training and rewarding performance based on formulas created out of a cookie-cutter process. Ask yourself: How often does an HR department see its role as building corporate-wide capabilities, as opposed to increasing the general competence of the workforce? Look at where the innovation movements usually take their lead: In most companies, the push to make quality a priority starts with manufacturing. Customer service efforts got their start in marketing. How much has HR contributed?

The real question should be: How much more can HR contribute? Look closely, and it becomes clear that the HR function has a distinctive ability to create wealth. After all, HR departments have at their disposal the means and the tools to have a more strategic impact. Their product is people, and it is people who are indispensable to the innovation process. Moreover, it is people who can carry the innovation message and the innovation approach to all corners of an organization. When HR professionals put their focus on developing employee innovation and pushing it deep within the organization, they can drive change and growth company-wide.

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