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Business Innovation Isn’t Easy. Here’s How Leaders Can Help

TalentCulture Content Impact Award Winner - 2023In recent years, digital transformation has been one of the hottest topics in leadership circles. Technology is central to this kind of complex, large-scale endeavor. But success requires more than tools, alone. Operating models and processes must also change. And for continued improvement, business innovation should be part of the mix, as well. Why?

Because technology is constantly moving forward, ongoing innovation can keep your organization ahead of the curve. However, this depends on your ability to anticipate, adjust, and adapt. And that’s where your employees can make all the difference. Your workforce carries a wealth of information, expertise, and creativity. Unlocking that potential is key.

By combining the right technology with effective leadership strategies, you can transform your organization from a static monolith to a dynamic talent magnet, where innovation is a way of life. For more insight, let’s look closer at the relationship between digital transformation, agile leadership, and business innovation…

4 Ways Digital Transformation Fosters Business Innovation

Organizations can benefit in many ways from adopting game-changing tools and processes. These are just a few outcomes to expect from digital transformation:

1. Improved Efficiency

The best next-level tools are designed with efficiency in mind. For example, systems that rely on AI-driven automation and customization make it possible to dramatically reduce workflow bottlenecks and other inefficiencies. By empowering individuals and teams to operate more productively, the entire organization can focus more fully on higher-level tasks and creative challenges.

2. Enhanced Collaboration

Workforce collaboration is essential for business innovation. But it’s not easy to achieve in today’s hybrid and remote work environments. This is where transformative solutions are making a tremendous impact.

By relying on systems that help people directly communicate, coordinate, and stay up-to-date with projects at their convenience, distributed teams can operate even more effectively than they would in person. This makes it possible to include people from around the globe, which means more diverse input for problem-solving, ideation, and other creative activities.

Digital transformation can even improve collaboration among people who work in person at a single location. A myriad of digital applications are available for team scheduling, meetings, and project management so everyone can stay better connected and more productive.

3. Scalability

The ability to scale resources is a serious challenge, especially for younger or smaller companies. When staff workloads are full and growth reaches a peak, how can you continue to scale effectively, while also making business innovation a priority?

Digital transformation helps break through these barriers. By streamlining workflows and activating new pathways that help people bring more creativity to their day-to-day tasks, they can allocate more time to strategic problem-solving and other business priorities.

4. Adaptive Learning

The famous physicist, William Pollard, once said, “Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think what you did yesterday will be sufficient tomorrow.”

This rings true for any business that wants to unlock the full potential of its workforce. Unless employees are continuously learning, they won’t have the inspiration or skills to drive innovation. And that means your organization won’t move forward.

But as many organizations discovered during the pandemic, digital learning tools can help make learning more convenient, continuous, engaging, and effective. Now, AI-driven tools are elevating everything from personalized training content and upskilling experiences to online knowledge-sharing forums and performance support at the moment of need.

How Agile Leaders Build a Culture of Business Innovation

In industries where change is a constant, digital transformation is no longer just an option. It’s an imperative. That’s because these organizations face unique issues:

  • How can they adapt quickly?
  • What can they do to stay ahead of the curve when that curve is always changing?
  • How can they attract, engage, and retain high-quality talent over the long term?

The answer to all these questions is business innovation.

The innovation process helps companies continuously adapt, stay ahead of competitors, and engage employees. Yet, merely asking employees to do their jobs differently is not enough.

Instead, ongoing innovation requires a culture shift. And that starts with a serious, top-down commitment. This is where agile leadership methods can help. Agile methods encourage innovation in a way that traditional leadership moves can’t touch. 

What is Agile Leadership?

Agile leadership is a model that values flexibility, adaptability, and continuous improvement above all else. Agile practices stimulate organizational innovation and encourage a culture where people strive to achieve better results by working smarter and more efficiently.

Developing agile leadership and integrating it into your organization takes time and effort, but the benefits are well worth the investment. These are the cornerstones:

1. Ensure Dedicated Time

Integrating top-down agility into your organization requires sufficient time for people to apply these practices on a consistent basis. When you establish specific time blocks for leaders and employees to step outside their normal scope of work, they can shift their focus to identify broader issues, generate creative ideas, and explore various possibilities. This lets business innovation blossom where it otherwise wouldn’t have space to emerge.

Also, with dedicated time for training, employees can develop the skills and mindset they need to be more inventive and push boundaries in their current roles. It’s equally important for leaders to devote time to meeting with team members, checking in, and discussing their future. This encourages a more open, collaborative, innovative culture across the board.

2. Emphasize Flexibility

Agile leaders are characterized by their flexible behavior, which in turn, permeates the organization. That doesn’t mean structure is nonexistent. Rather, it’s about being willing to adapt and change your existing structure to better align with market conditions, workforce needs, and your organization’s objectives.

Flexibility is a massive factor in keeping employees happy and encouraging an optimal work-life balance. When people don’t feel overwhelmed by stress or anxiety, they are much more likely to be engaged, productive, and motivated to support business innovation.

3. Empower Employees 

Agile methodologies were developed specifically with employee empowerment in mind. While traditional leadership models focus heavily on the authority and regulatory power of leaders, agile focuses on team building and working alongside teams to create better solutions.

It’s about establishing common goals and supporting employees as they work on projects and initiatives that matter to them. As a result, empowered employees are more passionate about their work and more creative in framing operational solutions.

The Benefits of Business Innovation

Innovation can be a difficult concept for organizations to quantify and justify. Rather than generating immediate cost savings or revenue, innovation typically is an investment in the future. Regardless, that investment can lead to impressive, long-term impact — especially if your culture is stagnant or your competitive position is slipping.

At its best, innovation can transform your business from the inside out by engaging your employees, revitalizing your work processes, and giving rise to a sustainable competitive advantage. Even if today’s effort falls short, it can still prepare your organization for future success. How? Because you can:

1. Enrich the Employee Experience

When team members feel uninspired or they don’t feel challenged, they’re likely to leave. In fact, these are two of the most common reasons why people quit.

But this isn’t a problem in cultures that welcome new ideas and encourage people to find better ways of getting things done. Companies that encourage innovation at all levels see a noticeable improvement in work culture. That’s because employees become more invested in an organization’s mission, vision, and values when they’re actively contributing to its success. And as employee ideas take root, engagement grows stronger. It’s a virtuous cycle.

2. “Future-Proof” Your Organization

Even if your business is thriving today, it’s impossible to guarantee this will continue. Industries change, market preferences change, and business fortunes can suffer. That’s why business innovation is so important. It could be the key to sustainable success. Why?

When organizations embrace change, employees are more likely to identify and share internal and external issues as they arise. They’re also more willing to work toward solutions that address these challenges.

No business lasts forever. No idea lasts forever. However, committing to continuous business innovation is the key to staying at the forefront of your industry, even through disruption. It can help you keep a leg up on competitors and strengthen your current offerings, while simultaneously improving employee commitment, engagement, and retention.

A Final Note

Talent is called talent for a reason. Indeed, great ideas don’t always come from upper-level management. That’s why leaders should create an environment where team members play an active role in business innovation. It engages team members more deeply. It strengthens your culture. Plus, it brings frontline voices to the table, so you can generate better ideas and implement better solutions.

At first glance, the connection between digital transformation, agile leadership, and business innovation may not be obvious. But if you follow the logic, their interdependent relationship becomes clear. Ultimately, when technology, people, and processes come together for a common cause, the benefits are often much greater than the sum of the parts.

HR Generalists: Tricks of the Trade #TChat Recap

Recruiting and hiring.
Compensation and benefits.
Organizational design and development.
Compliance and employee relations.
Training and performance management.
Change management and internal communications.
The list goes on…

In today’s world of work, the areas of expertise that define HR are varied and complex. Yet, most companies are too small to employ a dedicated staff of specialists. It forces the question:

In an era of increasing specialization, how can one person successfully run an entire human resource department?

Of course, this isn’t just an academic exercise. For many HR professionals, nonstop multitasking now seems to be a way of life. Recent research by The Society For Human Resource Management suggests that there’s a widespread need to support small HR shops. According to SHRM, a majority of its 275,000 members represent HR departments of 1-5 people. They know what it means to juggle many demands on a daily basis. But how can they perform effectively?

That’s the issue our talent-minded community tackled this week at #TChat Events, where two  “in-the-trenches” HR veterans led the discussion:

Dave Ryan, SPHR, Director of Human Resources at Mel-O-Cream Donuts, and
Donna Rogers,
SPHR, owner of Rogers HR Consulting, and management instructor at University of Illinois Springfield.

(Note: For details, see the highlights slideshow and resource links at the end of this post.)

Context: How Essential Is HR, Itself?

Recently, a debate has been brewing about the value of HR departments, overall. Bernard Marr questioned the need for an HR function, while Josh Bersin championed its role. Bersin emphasizes the fact that, despite a tremendous need to reskill and transform the HR function, human resources professionals help solve some of today’s most fundamental business problems. Top executives recognize the strategic role that talent plays in organizational success, and HR professionals are best equipped to define, shape and implement those strategies.

But how does that apply to solo HR managers, who may be living in a perpetually reactive zone? Ben Eubanks describes the best one-person HR departments as leaders with entrepreneurial traits:

We don’t pick up the phone and call our corporate HR team. We ARE the corporate HR team.
We are comfortable with research and making judgment calls.
We constantly seek out opportunities for professional development — if you’re not growing you’re dying.

Comments From the TalentCulture Crowd

Because many #TChat-ters understand the challenges that multi-tasking HR generalists face each day, the vast majority of Twitter chat participants sang the praises of one-person shops. In addition, many offered thoughtful advice. For example:

As the #TChat discussion demonstrates, solo managers don’t need to wait for industry events to connect with smart advice. Social tools make it easy to create a network of virtual resources to assist when you need it. Do you have a question about an unfamiliar subject? Tweet it with a relevant hashtag. (Try #TChat!) Post it to a LinkedIn HR discussion group. I guarantee you’ll get responses, faster than you expect.

Social tools also are useful for communication within your organization. Intranets are a great way to enable collaboration and communication at a relatively low cost. Cloud-based tools are available for internal discussions, project management, and reporting. Hiring systems and performance management solutions also offer social integration without steep IT costs. The possibilities are limited only by the time and interest HR managers invest in professional networking and research.

Above All: Aim for Agility

It seems that, of all skills needed for one-person HR superheroes, the most important is agility. Put aside the notion that you can execute perfectly, across-the-board. Prioritize carefully. Then, with the time and budget available to you, apply tools and resources as efficiently as your able, while making it all seem effortless.

Scared? Don’t be. If you’re reading this, you know that a worldwide community of like-minded people is right here to support you. We’ve got your back!

#TChat Week-In-Review: HR Departments of One

Donna Rogers and Dave Ryan

Watch the hangouts in the #TChat Preview

SAT 11/30:

#TChat Preview:
TalentCulture Community Manager, Tim McDonald, framed this week’s topic in a  post featuring #TChat hangout videos with guests Dave Ryan and Donna Rogers. Read: “HR: How to Succeed at Flying Solo.”

SUN 12/1:

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro looked at 7 ways leaders can foster a high-octane social workplace culture. Read: “Top 5 Reasons HR Is On The Move.”

MON 12/2:

Related Post: Guest Donna Rogers shared wisdom from her experiences. Read “Survival Tips for HR Departments of One.

WED 12/4:

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio recording

#TChat Radio: Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman spoke with guests Dave Ryan and Donna Rogers, about the challenges and rewards of operating as a one-person HR department. Listen to the radio recording now!

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin, Dave and Donna joined the TalentCulture community on the #TChat Twitter stream, as I moderated an open conversation that centered on 5 related questions. For highlights, see the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Insights: HR Departments of One

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Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Dave Ryan and Donna Rogers for sharing your perspectives on HR management. We value your time and expertise!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about how HR professionals can operate “lean”? We welcome your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week, #TChat looks at the latest Candidate Experience trends and best practices with guest experts, Elaine Orler and Gerry Crispin! Look for more details this weekend.

Meanwhile, the World of Work conversation continues. So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream,  our LinkedIn discussion group. or elsewhere on social media. The lights are always on here at TalentCulture, and we look forward to hearing from you.

See you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Mobile Hiring: A Smarter Way to Seal the Deal

Written by Todd Owens, President and COO, TalentWise

(Editor’s Note: Learn more about issues and opportunities in mobile hiring from Todd and Brandon Hall talent acquisition analyst, Kyle Lagunas. Listen to the #TChat Radio show now.)

During the past few years, innovative technologies have revolutionized HR business processes. The first wave focused on talent acquisition — with the advent of applicant tracking systems, and the recent surge in mobile recruiting. Now, mobile hiring is emerging as the next wave in this era of HR transformation. Why is mobile hiring important? Let’s take a closer look.

The Mobile Workplace Imperative

No one doubts that mobile connectivity is changing the world. 91% of Americans currently own a cell phone, and globally more than 6.8 billion mobile phones are in use. Now, tablets are making tremendous inroads, with sales that outpace mobile phones by a wide margin.

As these next-generation digital devices become central to our personal and professional lives, organizations are recognizing the value of integrating mobile capabilities into every facet of business operations. In fact, mobile technology is just one dimension of the SoMoClo (Social, Mobile, Cloud) revolution that is reinventing the workplace. HR has leveraged the power of SoMoClo for recruiting. The next logical step is hiring.

Mobile Hiring: Building Stronger Candidate Connections

First let’s look at mobile recruiting trends. Each month, one billion job searches are conducted via mobile devices. When properly executed, mobile-friendly recruitment leads to conversion rates that are 5-10 times higher than traditional PC-based recruitment, but at lower cost. A key benefit of going mobile is immediacy. While 70% of mobile searchers act within the hour, only 30% of PC searchers do. It’s no wonder why recruiters are scrambling to source talent through mobile channels.

However, even the best recruiting efforts can be undone when the candidate experience is disrupted by a cumbersome, outdated hiring process. What does it say to the candidate you’ve spent valuable resources recruiting — the one you’ve sourced and attracted through mobile channels — when you send a paper offer letter via snail mail and ask for a reply via fax?

Too often, there is a disconnect between the satisfying high-tech, high-touch experience of mobile recruiting, and old-school hiring methods. Unfortunately, it occurs at the most critical moment — in that stage between the job offer and onboarding. Why take that risk? It’s time for hiring to step up.

The Business Case For Mobile Hiring Now

Early adopters are seeing dramatic results, as the demand for mobile hiring support soars. For example, consider metrics from the TalentWise platform. Our customers send job candidates directly to our mobile-optimized portal to expedite the hiring process. In less than a year, we’ve seen a stunning 5-fold increase in mobile traffic — from only 8% of candidates last year to 43% today. Employers can’t afford to ignore that kind of exponential growth.

Mobile isn’t about devices. It’s about immediacy and “always on” access — and hiring should be, too. A weak hiring process is bound to affect your retention rate. In fact, studies estimate that, without solid on-boarding, 22% of new hires leave within the first 45 days.

Your organization only gets one chance to make a lasting first impression with today’s on-the-go talent pool. A mobile-friendly hiring process can give you a clear competitive edge. Is your offer letter truly digital? Can candidates sign it through a smartphone or tablet? Or must they print an email attachment, sign it, scan it and send it back? That model is just an email twist on a paper-based process, and it comes with all the old compliance risks and security issues of hardcopy workflows.

How To Catch The Mobile Hiring Wave

So what’s the first step to making your hiring process mobile friendly? Take a hard look at your hiring process. Audit every step. Go through it yourself as if you’re a new hire. Decide what is critical, think holistically, and optimize according to your priorities. For example, offer letters and screening authorizations are essential, but 401k enrollment forms may not be as important. HR managers should be able to monitor the status of multiple candidates from their tablets, but payroll may be better managed from a desktop.

Once you have a clear view of your current process, from both a candidate and administrative perspective, you can identify a technology solution that effectively “mobilizes” these functions. The path to a streamlined solution may be easier than you think.

What opportunities and issues do you see on the horizon for mobile hiring? Share your thoughts in the comments area.

WPFl8ZJCTbSWd3aW36zfeEA69ZEo44fOfHHdTeu8j9Q(About the Author: Todd Owens is President and COO at TalentWise and has been with the company since 2006. Previously he held senior Product Management and Business Development roles at Wind River Systems and Siebel Systems. A former United States Navy submarine officer, Todd has twice been recognized as a “Superstar for outsourcing innovation in support of HR organizations” by HRO Today magazine. Todd holds a BS degree from the United States Naval Academy and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.)

Image Credit: Carnegie Library