It’s been a hectic few weeks news-wise for stories that have been shaping up for a while that spell a sea change in how HR orients itself strategically and the role of leadership in driving that.
The changes we’ve been predicting seem to be taking solid root even sooner than anyone guessed. The recession is behind us if not entirely ‘over.’ Worries that it could recur are escalating demands in organizations to become more innovative, to get out ahead and examples abound of companies moving in that direction and those who are thought to have procrastinated.
RIM has come in for its share of criticism although it seems likely they have great momentum, with lots of corporate operations solidly hooked in and email remaining the mainline app for business executives. Still their efforts at smartphones seem to lag the leaders who are innovating at a furious pace to keep up and try to outdo the iPhone and iPad.
The research group at i4CP notes major investments in innovation divisions by diverse, major companies including Verizon, Cisco and even Campbell Soup. They note 70% of companies now show up as making this a priority and high performing companies do so at more than double the pace of weaker ones.
Of course innovation is squarely about having the right people. i4CP insists companies and HR departments are missing lots of opportunities to hire more innovative players, which is undoubtedly true. But beyond that we know leaders hire ‘in their own image’ so if you haven’t got innovation developing in the culture at the top, you likely have leaders in place up and down the line who aren’t out there choosing the most innovative people for their teams. We’ve all run into managers who are reluctant to hire people better or with better ideas than they have themselves. And when someone does have a great idea, some leaders either steal credit or quash it before it can make them look bad. It’s human nature. of the wrong sort. It can also be human nature to encourage your staff, support their efforts to get pilots going and praise them to all who will listen as a way of encouraging novel approaches throughout the organization.
I was really pleased to read in the latest Retail Council of Canada’s Canadian Retailer magazine that my former HR team at Hbc went on to put into practice an idea we started talking about before I left some 9 years ago. They are selling elearning and other HR assistance to smaller companies. Given the huge changes occurring there and the inevitable impact on jobs, especially in support areas, that’s not only a wise move for the company, but for the individuals involved as well. Innovation isn’t only about tech, but about systems and processes throughout every operation.
Meanwhile, news-wise, Rupert Murdoch certainly personifies the limitations and potential for trouble for the old line ‘I’m the boss’ command and control leaders. Was there innovation going on that was unsanctioned? Maybe, but if so, it clearly demonstrates a lack of connectedness at the top, a lack of risk awareness, which has to be part of effective innovation. Not every idea will survive to morph into effective practice and not every idea should. What’s clear is that an insular CEO once again, like many of the financial melt down leaders, thought little about their overall operations, but only about what was might be good short term for themselves. Somewhere along the line they stopped being learning leaders, exploring new options sensibly with lots of support and participation, listening to their teams, and became too focused either on what personally rewarded those at the top.