Why focus on HR Innovation?


Albert Einstein used to say that creativity is intelligence having fun. And I strongly believe that more creativity and fun would allow companies to find better and more innovative solutions to the People Management challenges they face. But concretely, how can this creativity be used to produce innovative outcomes? I particularly like Harvard Professor Theodore Levitt’s quote: “creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things”. Therefore, HR innovation is not only having good ideas in the HR fields, but above all about making them happen and succeed in organizations.

Some HR teams are already leveraging on innovation to find alternative and more effective solutions to the challenges they face in HR fields such as recruitment, people development or career management, but this is only the beginning. Indeed, innovation has never been among the classical strengths of the HR function, but therefore, this also constitutes a unique opportunity for companies to build a new generation of really innovative HR professionals able to contribute in a more original and impactful way to the strategy of organizations.

According to few signs, HR innovation starts being (and above all will become) more and more critical in organizations. For example, in a recent study carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) involving 300 HR and business leaders, HR innovation has even been highlighted as the top priority for HR professionals. Indeed, 35% of these HR leaders consider HR innovation as their most critical business priority beyond for example talent or performance management. Non-HR business leaders also highlight the importance of innovation in this same report.

Furthermore, in another recent study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, more that 1,500 executives were asked to identify the top challenges for their organizations over the next five to 10 years. The most critical challenge highlighted is people management (28% of the votes) and the second is innovation (20% of the votes). Is that random that people management and innovation are precisely the two most pressing challenges identified? I personally don’t think so!

The rising importance of HR innovation can also be observed on the field. Just to give an example (many other examples will follow in this blog), a Lab dedicated to HR innovation was launched some months ago in France, country in which I currently live. Supported both by public and private institutions, the “Lab HR” aims to boost and promote HR Innovation by bringing together key players in HR Innovation, such as start-ups, big companies or public actors.

Finally, a very inspiring book appeared last year : « The Rise of HR – wisdom from 73 thought leaders », by the HR Certification Institute and edited by Dave Ulrich among others. This book invites top HR leaders and experts worldwide to share their views on the main challenges HR professionals face and how this will shape the future of the HR function. It is a very inspiring book that I will probably further comment in future posts in this blog. What I find very striking is that despite the general HR orientation of the book, the words related to innovation (innovation, innovator, innovate, innovative) appear up to… 220 times ! This figure highlights, according to the world’s top HR leaders, how critical HR innovation will become in the close future. Well, enough for this first entry, I finish today’s post with an inspiring quotation of the book I just mentioned:

« HR as a profession should model what we ask organization leaders and employees to do, including (…) innovation – We should focus more on what can be than what has been, which requires innovation. Innovation can and will occur in HR services, business models, and mindsets. We should look for new, creative, and pioneering solutions to business problems » (page 4).


« Innovation is top business priority for first time, finds CIPD HR Outlook » (CIPD article, 2016) : http://www.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2016/02/03/innovation-is-top-business-priority-for-first-time-finds-cipd-hr-outlook.aspx

« What’s Next: Future Global Trends Affecting Your Organization » (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, SHRM Foundation, 2014).

 « The Rise of HR – wisdom from 73 thought leaders », book (HR Certification Institute, 2015) : https://www.cipd.co.uk/binaries/the-rise-of-hr-wisdom-from-73-thought-leaders_2015.pdf