Innovation is currently one of the biggest buzzwords in the market. Books, articles, and presentations all emphasize the need for companies to become innovative in order to survive and thrive in today’s economy.
Innovation means to think differently. It means looking at your processes, products, and workers from a different perspective. And it almost always involves change, which often leads to resistance. There are countless reasons why people resist innovation, including fear, lack of communication, and mistrust. Another reason why people oppose innovation is because they see it as impractical. Often ‘innovative’ ideas are unrealistic, do not directly link to the business, or are difficult to actually implement. This suggests a need for practical innovation.
What is Practical Innovation?
Practical innovation focuses on real-time problem solving. Practical, applied innovation takes a meta view of the product, market and processes to determine what is really needed and then invents for that need. In practical innovating, real problems are anticipated and creatively solved through continuous innovation.
Many view innovation as being the first to do something new. However, practical innovation is not necessarily about being the first. Malcolm Gladwell, a best-selling author of business books, differentiates between inventing and innovating, and says that practical innovation is about being the best at innovating. He often cites Steve Jobs of Apple as a classic example of a practical innovator in that he refined and repackaged existing elements of competitors’ products.
Innovation for HR
In today’s connected world, Information Technology (IT) is often the leader in practically innovating processes. A survey by CIO magazine discovered that nearly two-thirds of IT executives say that innovation is a significant or dominant aspect of their roles. And more than half said that the IT department, alone or in partnership with business units, led innovation initiatives within their companies.
In a Business Context, What Does “Innovation” Mean?
“Innovation should be a bridge between a process and a technology. The question is how to get the two to feed off each other. The practitioner wants to know: ‘If I click on this one button, will I complete these five tasks in one step and be able to go home for the day?’” ~Jayson Saba, Research Analyst for Human Capital Management at Aberdeen Group
Human Resources (HR), in particular, is perfectly poised to partner with IT to practically innovate business processes. As HR departments become increasingly intertwined in business strategy and the war for talent intensifies, improving processes becomes even more important.
The 2013 PwC HR Technology Survey found that of all HR processes, recruiting, goal/performance management and core HR were the top priorities for implementation or upgrades. The same survey also discovered that filing talent gaps is one of the top three investment priorities for CEOs in the U.S.
Top Pressures In Talent Acquisition
Source: Aberdeen Group
Companies struggle to find or retain the skilled workers they need. Robin Erickson, director of Bersin by Deloitte’s Talent Acquisition research practice, estimates that the total market size for talent acquisition is $125 billion in 2013. With a large number of technologies, tools, and services focused on finding talent, plus the open talent economy, which gives employers the ability to find talent through different types of employment (full-time employees, joint ventures, contractors, freelancers, etc.), the market for employees is increasingly competitive.
Over the past couple of years, organizations have had renewed focus on employer branding, which has been leading to an adoption of marketing techniques for the purposes of talent acquisition. Sourcing, in particular, is an area where recruiters are spending more time than ever. A recent Talent Technology survey by Accelir found that the average recruiter spends 15 hours a week on sourcing.
Applying practical innovation to the sourcing process might mean looking at unconventional channels or sources to find the skilled talent that the company needs.
Practical Innovation in Sourcing
Recruiters are now using internal CRMs or applicant tracking systems to strategically identify candidates faster and more intelligently than before. Additionally, social media, such as LinkedIn, is playing a critical role in sourcing talent.
However, these channels, which were innovative compared to career fairs, are growing in popularity and are now a standard part of most companies’ recruiting strategy. To innovate further, talent acquisition practitioners could look at unconventional alternatives to tap into skilled talent.
1) Talent Communities
Talent communities, or talent networks, allow potential candidates to opt in or be added to specialized groups that match their skill sets or career goals. Connecting with talent communities allows companies to create pools of various candidate types including current workers, alumni, current and former applicants, referrals, interns, etc. Using technology-based tools, recruiters can strategically and proactively find the skills they need when an opening arises.
2) Interactive Forums
Online forums provide an opportunity for industry professionals, current workers, and potential candidates to network and discuss relevant industry topics. They also allow recruiters to get to know potential hires and tap into talent when opportunities are available.
3) Virtual Career Fairs
Virtual career fairs can offer all the benefits of traditional in-person career fairs, but are less costly, more convenient, and allow for attendees from any geographical location to attend. This alternative source provides the opportunity to offer webinars, conduct video interviews, and promote employer brand effectively.
Companies can use video games to identify and recruit talent. Gamification is the use of gaming principles and design in non-gaming situations. Creating a fun and engaging game can increase brand awareness and identify potential candidates by posing virtual challenges that require the skills necessary for a given job.
5) Contests & Competitions
Drawing potential applicants to your company through contests or competitions that measure required skills and attract the talent you seek gives recruiters a chance to know the candidates better, plus brings publicity to the employer brand and boosts brand awareness.
6) Mobile Campaigns
With mobile becoming a prominent part of daily life, location-based text messaging campaigns can be a way to recruit local candidates.
“What I want to do is explore the question of what goes into practical innovation. What are the elements of it, what makes it possible. We talk about pioneers and innovators, and the idea is that they are the first to do something, on and on in many different ways, but the idea that I wanted to explore this morning are that there are some very specific ways where it is not desirable to be the first across the finish line.” ~Malcolm Gladwell