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What’s the most important department to a business’s success? Depending on the industry, you’ll get different answers: Sales, R&D, the IT department. But you’ll rarely hear leaders point to the HR department.

Recent research from Gartner revealed that the workforce was only a top-three priority for a mere 21 percent of CEOs. Considering that human resource officers are the least likely leaders to become CEOs, this statistic makes sense. Without direct experience, it can be challenging for leadership to see how a well-run and innovative HR department has a direct impact on a business’s top and bottom lines.

Fundamentally, businesses are made up of people. Since HR serves as the link between a company and its people, HR innovation has the potential to improve a company at its most basic level. Here’s a few ways how.

1. Develop new ways to drive diversity

Making your workplace more diverse isn’t just an ethical thing to do; it’s also a proven method of improving business outcomes. Diversity doesn’t just have to do with your gender or ethnicity. It can involve age, culture, race, religion, sexual orientation and capabilities.

Standpoint theory argues that your social and political experiences shape your perspective (or standpoint). Your standpoint affects what strikes you as important, what you hear from others, how you interpret events and so on. Standpoint theorists argue that organizations with more diverse standpoints are better at generating novel ideas and accurately identifying threats and opportunities.

This theory is backed up by evidence, too. Researchers Scott E. Page and Lu Hong constructed a mathematical model showing that diverse groups of problem-solvers outperform groups made up of the smartest individuals. The reason for this counterintuitive finding that was diverse groups were able to overcome more obstacles, while the smart group would get stuck since they thought similarly.

When HR innovations drive at hiring people from different walks of life, they provide your business the same capability. When a challenge or opportunity arises, you won’t have a group of people attacking it in the same way; you’ll have people coming at it from all angles.

2. Streamline HR processes

Because CEOs with an HR background are few and far between, it’s understandable why many members of leadership don’t always realize how an efficient HR department impacts a business.

But if you were to ask your HR department, other employees and new hires, you would find a wealth of insights into how to improve the way HR works. However, just because people have ideas doesn’t mean that HR innovation is going to happen on its own. There are more people with big ideas than there are people with big ideas and the drive to bring them to leadership’s attention! Give them permission to make improvements by asking them for input and driving it forward. Discover what is meaningful and tackle it collaboratively.

You might uncover, for instance, that your onboarding process is missing critical elements or contains unnecessary duplication. Or that new hires are having trouble meeting all of the requirements. Downstream, that means delayed start dates and training and ultimately, a longer period of time before your new hires start delivering value for your organization. You might be surprised to hear that eighty-eight percent of employees think their organization doesn’t do a great job at onboarding; and onboarding is but one example among many HR processes ripe for improvement.

3. Make your people feel heard

It’s been well-established that happier, more satisfied employees are more productive, profitable, less prone to absenteeism and less likely to quit. There’s an inherent value to having happier employees, but it doesn’t hurt that there’s a business case for it too.

The next natural question to ask: how do we make our employees happier? It may seem like an overly broad question, but it doesn’t have to be.

When looking for ways to get your employees involved in the business, engaged in their work and happier with their lives, the natural avenue is to seek ideas through the HR department. As the epicenter of company culture, HR is uniquely positioned to ideate and implement the quality-of-life improvements that make your peoples’ days all that much easier.

This doesn’t have to be a massive initiative either. Have your HR department ask the employee base what cultural changes would improve their work experience, and then prioritize and act on that feedback. Regardless of what HR innovation results, the mere act of listening and acting will show your employees that their company values them.

Every business wants to cut costs and increase revenues. There are a lot of strategies you can explore to do so, but ultimately, a successful strategy is enabled by a healthy and engaged workforce. Empowering your HR department to be innovative in its operations is a great first step towards promoting employee engagement and a workforce that outperforms expectations.

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Topic(s): Ideation , Challenges
 

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