If there are any remaining questions about the importance of innovation in today’s business world, all you have to do is look to the recent closing of the giant Toys “R” Us as a stark reminder of what happens when companies fail to innovate. While Toys “R” Us is the most recent fatality, they are by no means alone. Consider this: “only 12 percent of the Fortune 500 companies from 1955 are still in business, and last year alone, 26 percent fell off the list.” If you have left innovation to happenstance or your innovation programs aren’t performing as expected, it is time to ask some tough questions about your innovation culture.
Being able to take a step back and evaluate the state of your innovation culture begins with fostering an understanding of the current moment in business history and why fostering innovation can be challenging. There is no denying that we have arrived at a unique moment where “Organizations face a radically shifting context for the workforce, the workplace, and the world of work.” Innovation means understanding these shifts and facing them head on.
The State of Our Modern Workforce
The main catalyst for the seismic shifts that have been rocking the workforce is technology. We are experiencing a fourth industrial revolution that sees technology growing at a pace of 100% every 12-18 months. That is a break-neck pace that can seem impossible to keep up with let alone get ahead of. The result is a sizeable and ever-growing gap between technology and business productivity. Essentially, humans are struggling to adapt quickly to new technology and the further behind the curve companies fall, the more likely they are to lose out to competition that is able to remain more flexible and quickly onboard the latest technology.
Morphing into a company with a workforce that can make the most of technology and maintain productivity requires a culture of innovation that willingly let’s go of rigid systems, procedures and hierarchies. This shift clearly falls under the umbrella of human resources, making HR departments a vital component of creating a culture of innovation. With the right HR leadership, companies can create an environment that actively works to close the gap between technology and productivity.
How Can HR Help?
When it comes to create an innovative culture, there are some very specific steps that HR departments can take:
- Stay on top of technology trends. Workers are busy with daily tasks, but with the right support, everyone can be aware of emerging trends and take the necessary steps to respond appropriately.
- Understand how new technology is relevant to the business and how it can be incorporated in order to enhance the workforce and improve productivity.
- Work to get leaders and key stakeholders onboard when it comes to adapting new technology. It is up to HR to make the case for the importance of innovation and sell decisionmakers on new technology.
- Provide the necessary support and education that allows workers to adopt new technology.
- Create an environment where collaboration is not only encouraged and made easy but rewarded.
- Recognize participation and reward employees for their contributions.
Creating a culture where employees feel safe to innovate and are able to pursue new ideas that may go beyond their existing roles will always be easier said than done, but there are some valuable tools that HR can use to achieve success. Innovation software provides a concrete way for employees to participate in innovation, actively collaborate with colleagues and experts from around the world and receive feedback and recognition for their ideas. By creating a centralized location for innovation that can be customized according to the company and the project, innovation software can effectively support efforts by HR departments.
The phrase “innovate or die” takes on increasing weight as technology accelerates the pace of innovation. At the same time, the rate at which technology is advancing makes it nearly impossible to adapt and maintain productivity at a competitive level. Recognizing this challenging is the first step to overcoming it. From there, it is important to enlist HR departments to identify new trends, support ongoing education, incorporate innovation software and serve as a leader in cultivating an environment that supports innovation. If your innovation culture isn’t what it should be, then it may be time to turn to HR.