If your workflow process hasn’t changed in the last five years, it might be time to consider a change. As Wharton Business School professor Adam Grant writes in “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World,” practice makes perfect, but it doesn’t make new. In part of a series on must-read books for HR leaders, we’re looking at how Grant’s ideas on innovation can drive HR transformation.
HR departments can get caught up in the same day-to-day routine, mainly because they have established processes that work and meet the business’s needs. However, having a traditional, habitual workflow can prevent you from coming up with new, more effective ways of doing things — and driving real HR transformation.
Here is a closer look at four ways being innovative in your everyday work can benefit the HR department, increase productivity and make the organization more successful overall.
1. Encourage Your Team to Question the Status Quo
Grant notes that once you realize rules and systems were created by people just like you, it’s clear they are not set in stone. Encourage your team to view rules, systems and processes as simply the current way of doing things. If something seems inefficient or a new technology has emerged that could streamline the process, you should cultivate a culture where team members are encouraged to speak up. When your workforce is willing to question your workflow process, you are less likely to stagnate as an organization.
2. Develop Cross-Domain Expertise
As Grant writes, “originality increases when you broaden your frame of reference.” Historically speaking, scientists who had some immersion in the arts, such as playing a musical instrument, have been much more likely to win a Nobel Prize than their peers who did not. While your team may not be going after the Nobel, it is easy to get stuck in a fixed way of doing things when you only consider it from the perspective of a single domain. Encourage your team to develop a broader frame of reference by:
- Looking at case studies and examples for how other companies and industries approach HR challenges
- Considering how colleagues from a different domain, such a finance or marketing, would address a similar challenge
- Bringing in someone from a different field to brainstorm with your team, ask questions and generally shift the perspective
3. Establish a Leadership Culture of Innovation
As an HR leader, your actions are critical to whether your organization’s workflow process will evolve to meet changing needs, or if it will remain static and rigid. Grant recommends that leaders take several steps to encourage creativity in their organizations. One is to be open to questions and criticism. He shares the example of an executive who copied the entire company on an email critiquing his performance at a meeting to show constructive criticism and discourse were welcome. Hold an innovation tournament that is designed to solve a specific problem or put a range of ideas on the table to shake up the way things are done. Finally, make sure you are seeking contributions and ideas from across your team. Your administrative assistant has a completely different view and skill set from your VP of HR — but listening to the input of both can lead to valuable innovation.
4. Change the Way You Hire
The term “cultural fit” is pervasive in HR. Yet Grant suggests that when you hire for cultural fit, you’re more likely to simply continue to hire people who think and solve problems in a similar way. Instead, hire for cultural contribution — the ability to bring a unique perspective, fresh ideas and real contribution to the table. Start conversations early in your relationship with new employees to encourage them to leverage their insider/outsider status to identify opportunities for change and further development.
It is easy to get stuck following the same processes over time as you identify HR approaches that work for your organization. However, as Grant points out, simple steps such as reframing leadership’s relationship to criticism and focusing on soliciting a wide range of different perspectives and contributions can help you develop approaches that up-level your business’s performance in HR and beyond.