What is HR innovation? Why is it the need of the hour for Human Resource Management?

An investment in HR innovation today, will ensure better productivity tomorrow.


“HR innovation” is the new buzzword in town, and rightly so. A few years ago, hardly anyone would have believed that the whole world will switch to working remotely barring the essential services sectors. With flexible working hours, work from home and virtual meetings becoming a norm, it’s only fair to expect a trickle-down effect in every other arm of an organisation.

Simply put, HR innovation deals with innovation in the discipline of human resources. This could be innovation around executing fresh ideas, methods and technologies in order to satiate the demands of both the organization and its employees. It also includes being pre-emptive of the future trends and adapting to a fast-changing world. In the post-COVID world, HR innovation is a necessity now more than ever. It’s a world where human resource management will have to adopt itself for a much flatter organisation where AI and robots will take over most laborious jobs.

The global human resource management (HRM) sector is expected to reach $30 billion by 2025. Thus it is safe to assume that the business of creating innovative HR solutions is only going to boom. Another data point that will change the way HR has traditionally operated is the fact that by 2020, millennials could make up to 70% of the workforce in many countries. This is another reason why HR will need to foster and develop technology progressions to meet employee expectations and business needs. And the only way to achieve this goal faster is by adopting innovation into the industry. HR is an industry where traditionally employees have been overburdened with the complicated processes of managing the lifecycle of every employee but the industry is experiencing a resurgence and is becoming relevant now more than ever, especially in the post-COVID world.

Post-COVID HR

Human resource management played a huge role in helping companies navigate into a fully digital model of work. There’s a reason why human beings are called the masters of change. Things will never be the same in the post-COVID world and the pandemic has escalated the process of HR innovation for many companies. It is high time that companies invest in learning and re-skilling for the digital-first industries. Judicious planning for workforce enhancement is imperative. There is an innate need to transform the HR to empower digital workplaces to prepare for the uncertain times ahead.

This is not the time to mull over the disadvantages of AI replacing human jobs but how the same technology, coupled with big data can be used to increase the value and efficiency of the functioning of an organisation. Technologies like Internet of Things, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence are already helping in automating most HR processes, resulting in leaner and more efficient teams.

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By 2020, millennials could make up to 70% of the workforce in many countries. Hence, HR will need to develop technology progressions to meet employee expectations and business needs.

HR 4.0

Industry 4.0, which refers to the fourth major industrial revolution, needs HR 4.0. If Industry 4.0 is all about a major transformation in the way companies approach manufacturing, HR 4.0 is going to be about increased efficiency in the process of human resource management. For Industry 4.0, one still needs to discover better technology to cater to the demands of the ever-changing world but for much of the current HR-related activities; the technology required is already in place. It’s a matter of time when it will be adopted and applied. The HR can no longer afford to be redundant, bureaucratic and manual.

There are many advantages of adopting HR 4.0. It will help the HR be more collaborative, help in process optimisation, increasing strategic power in human resource management, easier decision making, increased productivity, identification of best talent in the market, error and manual work reduction and maintain costs.

Ways of HR Innovation

Organisations all over the globe are recognising the need to use data in HR activities like recruiting methods, identifying gaps in skill sets, and act as a bridge between the demand and supply of talent across the board. Predictive Analytics technology and consumer experience intelligence is going to be at the helm of ushering innovative HR functions. This will involve reimagining conventional employee engagement tools to not only make the employee experience a competitive advantage but also understand that large scale implementation of employee experience technologies is connected to the business outcome too.

One of the major challenges, however, will be cybersecurity. With an increase in the use of data, cybersecurity will be an important investment when it comes to overcoming issues of data confidentiality and employee privacy. As Anupal Banerjee, Chief Human Resources Officer at Tata Technologies puts it, having a secure remote infrastructure has never been more important. Companies with large remote workforce may open themselves up to Ransomware attacks. Large employers must set up strong cybersecurity practices soon.

HR innovation is not only about the HR department, but everything related to the interaction between organizations and their people. There are different ways in which HR innovation can be used to implement new ideas, methods, and technologies to better meet the ever-evolving requirements of the organization.

Job Adverts

Job ads are probably one of the first things that can be digitised. Thanks to augmented writing technology, it is now possible to predict whether a job advert will get an intended outcome or not. The technology uses machine learning and predictive analytics to show all kinds of permutations and combinations when it comes to predicting the suitability of a particular job advert. This can lower an organization’s cost per application and reduce its time per hire.

Chatbots

Sourcing, screening and scheduling of candidates can easily be done using natural language processing (NLP) capabilities that many chatbots possess. Recruitment chatbots can mimic human conversations during the recruiting process. This can help recruiters focus on other administrative tasks and streamline the hiring process while chatbots can take care of things like asking screening questions, answering FAQs, etc. Chatbots can also analyse and organize people-centric data for seamless attendance management and payslip generation.

Selective Hiring

Many pre-selection technology tools enable organizations to hire selectively. This can help organisations avoid the task of manually going through thousands of applications for initial selection. This will help organisations sift through applications and narrow down on the ones that truly add value. Pre-employment assessment software has come a long way doing all the heavy lifting and can save a huge amount of time in the hiring process. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) can be used to streamline the process of scanning resumes.

Inclusive Culture

There is a huge opportunity for HR to re-evaluate their current practices to form a more inclusive and diverse workplace culture. Organizations are increasingly expanding diversity hiring targets to focus on inclusion around gender, ethnicity, culture, age, and LGBT-identifying individuals. Technology can definitely help in this regard as well. AI can help to remove unconscious bias during the recruiting and interviewing process. It can do a better job than humans of avoiding unconscious bias by ignoring information such as names, universities, locations, and dates previous positions etc. In an ideal hiring process, this can help eradicate all unwarranted bias during the hiring process.

Gamification

Gamification is slowly creeping into all elements of HR. It is a relevant tool that can not only assist during the interview process but also help in the skilling, learning and development of the employees. Companies like Accenture and Deloitte are already doing it. They are using gamification to build make-believe workplace challenges right from the recruitment stage.

Mental Health Awareness

Technology can go a long way in ensuring the mental wellbeing of employees. Gone are the days when overwork was glorified. Stress and anxiety issues are the number one cause of unproductive time and performance issues. And in the long term, it will be more profitable for an employer to invest in innovative ways of promoting mental health awareness and HR can play an important role in making sure this happens. A mental health coach can help them to create specific goals and help them both personally and professionally.

Personalisation

Personalisation is becoming an increasing priority for employees across the globe. This is something that owes its existence and popularity to the consumer world. It is high time that HR professionals also recognise the benefits of personalising staff satisfaction. Boutique agency Bain and Gray’s co-founder Emily Bain recognised the importance of personalisation in HR a long time ago. “In April this year, we went a step further with our personalised perks drive, by launching an innovative benefits scheme for our candidates called the ‘The Card’ – an exclusive members-only loyalty scheme that rewards our highest-earning executive talent with a range of partner offers and innovations,” she said. This is a great way to ensure productivity and personalised perks.

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With an increase in the use of data, cybersecurity will be an important investment when it comes to overcoming issues of data confidentiality and employee privacy.

HR Innovation: A Long-term Investment 

HR innovation can be seen both as a process and as an outcome. This is why it is the need of the hour for human resource management. There can be numerous other ways over and above the ones discussed here in which innovation in HR can take place in present-day organisations. Companies should consider that investing in innovation will bear fruitful results going forward. It is imperative that HR leaders understand the importance of innovation in industries today. Innovating will also enable organizations to differentiate themselves and look at innovation as a part of the new role of the HR. In the beginning, it may seem like a bit of an overhaul in the organisational practices but in the long-term this will only help streamline the entire process. 

Google’s 20% Project is a great example. This project allowed their engineers to work on their pet projects 20% of their paid working time (that is one day a week). It seemed like a radical innovation in Google’s work design but it turned out to be a great enabler in improving motivation and performance, retaining current employees and attracting new talent. The first step for HR innovation is to identify a requirement or an opportunity for innovation by HR professionals and not just do anything for the sake of it. It should be clear why they want to do it. It is important to note that every HR change comes with risks such as the risk of investment, implementation failure, and failure to deliver desired outcomes. There has to be a good reason why organisations feel the need to invest in innovative HR practices. Hey need to have a good understanding of associated risks and investments. 

From digitising HR activities like job adverts, chatbots, selective hiring, inclusive culture, gamification, mental health awareness and personalisation, one needs to understand that it’s a long-term investment and has to be patient with it. The bottom line is, benefits from a diverse, engaged and a mentally, physically, and financially motivated workforce are immense. As more and more companies are adopting innovative HR practices, it will provide a greater choice for employees. It will also help eliminate unhealthy workplace cultures which is never beneficial for neither the employer nor the employees. 

Thus, HR solutions that benefit employees are obviously on the rise. The growing market is abound with solutions that promote employee engagement, diversify companies, rethink sexual harassment training, expand corporate wellness solutions, and employ AI to improve HR operations. This will go a long way in ensuring that employees feel at home even while they’re at work. This will go a long way in creating a thriving, productive and motivated workplace culture. It is the need of the hour for companies and HR executives to recruit, hire and retain top talent and that can only happen if their policies are innovative, unbiased, and employee-friendly. In order to attract and retain such a diverse and competitive talent, they will have to increase their spending on innovative HR solutions and therefore push for state-of-the art human resource management programs to ensure better productivity at a much cheaper investment. There’s no better time for human resources to be more digital-savvy than it is today.

DU Desk
DU Desk
Stories from DU Desk are the collective efforts of our in-house authors, guest authors and subject matter experts who collate and distill their ideas and thoughts to bring out actionable insights for our readers.

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