• ClarkHouse Human Capital

HR for Corporate Innovation

Updated: Mar 27, 2019

Leading up to this seminar we asked Whether Corporate HR Innovation is a myth or a possibility. We posed this question to corporate South Africa as well as influential business and HR leaders. Monday 6th May 2016 allowed us to unpack this impasse and understand what business and HR can do to stay ahead of the innovation curve. 

GIBS played gracious host to a thought-provoking morning that included discussions around how businesses can harness the power within their payroll to make innovation part of their company culture and how HR can and should be the catalyst for this change. Dr Jeff Chen, whose research and teaching interests include innovation strategy, value creation thinking and human computer interaction, was the perfect moderator for a morning of inspirational innovation conversation.  

A Macro View

First to take the podium was Stacey-Lee Bolon, Innovation Manager at FNB, whose focus was on the macro world of business citing that in the next 10 years, 40% of all S&P 500 companies will disappear from the list. “Why?” Bolon asked, “Because of the rate that innovation is taking place amongst start-ups and the disintermediation of large corporates.” So how do large corporates avoid or perhaps harness the threat of disintermediation? Bolon leverages thinking from Salim Ismail, stating that this is possible through exponential organisations where digitisation, deception, disruption, demonetisation, dematerialisation and democratisation are all the fundamental values within the business, think Über and Air B&B as typical examples of exponential organisations. Bolon then went on to suggest that businesses can become this way through using new work methods, a visionary view, openness to change, openness to failure, transparency and a far more curious outlook.

The overarching message was that culture is the fundamental incubator for innovation on a macro level and this is what businesses need to strive towards. 

Innovators DNA

Next up was Bianca Bosch, Innovation Manager at Totem Africa. Totem, an innovation consultancy head quartered in Silicon Valley, leads internal and external crowd sourcing, innovation and insights programs for Fortune 500 companies around the globe. With their newly launched product, The Innovation Profiler, they have the ability to tap into and identify the innovation talent “already on your payroll”. The Profiler identifies 8 key skills, and 26 sub skills critical to an innovators DNA. It benchmarks organisational innovation versus the general population and the top serial successful entrepreneurs around the world.

Bosch left us with food for thought about how a business and HR can productively recruit, upskill and manage our talent for better business. For a more fascinating and in-depth understanding of what Totem does, take a look at their co-creation platform and website

Custodians of Innovation

Candice Mathews, Head of Investment Banking Finance Programme Management, Standard Bank, then took to the podium to give us a short accounts101 lesson leading us to discover that surprisingly, innovation is sitting unobtrusively in our payroll. Meaning that innovation is fundamentally about culture and the people already existing in the business. The two burning questions that Candice therefore put forward to business were; “Is leadership engaged and committed to the process of innovation?” and “What is it that we aim to achieve through innovation and how?” Once a business can establish these, it’s important to create a safe environment where people are allowed to fail and where collaboration can take place. Human resource can play a critical role in this journey by being the custodians of these innovators.

“Innovation is a discipline” said Mathews and it’s therefore important to ask how we, as human capital, can unlock the innovation potential within our payroll”

What is the problem?

Last to take the stage was Roy Clark, Managing Director of Clarkhouse Human Capital, whose mandate was to lift up the bonnet of the HR engine and discover what the problem REALLY is. Clark posed a thought provoking idiosyncrasy that if people are the custodians of innovation and HR are the custodians of people then why are HR and innovation so mutually exclusive? A few scary numbers and stats followed such as only 5% of global companies believe that HR add value and 80% of HR have a strategy but only 20% of HR involved business to come up with that strategy.

But the news was not all grim, in fact it was deeply optimistic. HR are continuously bogged down by compliance procedures, endless paperwork, talent shortages and a lack of data analytics. How then can business expect innovation to flow from such rigid structures? If business, from the top down, can connect the power of its existing capability, change its culture and reward structures, use the power of technology and integrate this with current processes (such as virtual teams and gamification), then HR will have a lot more time to become the Chief Employee Experience Officers that they should be. What does this mean? It means that they are the key agents of change in the business, that they own EVERYTHING that is HR, that they deliver unique customised solutions to business problems and that the credibility of HR is firmly restored.

A key point that Clark made was that the future of HR will be profoundly based on employee analytics. “In fact” he said “employee analytics will become as important to CEO’s as a profit and loss statement”. Meaning, “using measurements and cold hard numbers to see the value in a potential employee.” Some may be overlooked for a number of biased reasons, when in fact they are the ones who could bring true value to an organisation. Employee analytics can most certainly become the catalyst needed to channel the power of present DNA within a business.

So in conclusion, is Corporate HR Innovation a myth or a possibility? Based on the above findings it most certainly is a possibility. With more support, a pivotal shift in thinking and a more robust culture of innovation from the top down, HR can really become the change agent large corporates are yearning for.

For press related queries contact Juliette Attwell at Magooze.

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