Having cemented its place on the board, the HR department holds more power than ever before. How it utilises this power is key to unlocking the innovation potential of a workforce.

While HR has the potential to become the innovation trailblazer in business, more must be done to turn this potential into a reality.

Currently, the average UK worker suggests six ideas to improve their business each year. Yet according to Wazoku’s EveryDay Innovation Report, less than half of these ideas (43%) are acknowledged by their employers. This means the typical UK business ignores 18,000 opportunities a year to boost their bottom line and engage staff.

While HR definitely has the power to drive innovation, it does not currently possess the required tools. That’s why HR directors must use their influence to encourage boards to think more commercially about innovation and invest in the necessary processes to drive it sustainably and effectively.

Leadership, in turn, must see HR as a value adding service line and give HR directors the ammunition and tools they need to evolve from innovation facilitators to innovation leaders.

I’ve outlined the three key areas through which HR can best showcase the benefits of innovation below:

Implementing processes to retain talent:

Employees will feel more engaged with their company and brand if their ideas are listened to and implemented. They’re also likely to work harder, become more loyal to the business and therefore stay longer in their role. One viable solution to achieve this is to create a platform through which leadership can share company-wide innovation objectives and employees can submit their own ideas on how to reach these goals.

Currently however, our research shows 52% of employees believe that although their organisation is full of people with great ideas, there is no established process for these ideas to be shared and filtered. In addition, only half (51%) of UK workers totally understand their business’ innovation strategy and how it fits into wider corporate goals.

The very nature of enterprises make streamlining the idea sharing process challenging, but unless the current disconnect between different teams and departments is solved, innovation will struggle to prosper.

Luckily, 86% of workers already see the concept of an “idea sharing platform” as a very useful way to improve innovation in their company. In addition, of the ideas that are acknowledged by businesses, more than one in three (39%) are implemented and positively impact the way the organisation works. This shows that when an effective process is in place, results will follow.

Giving workers access to an idea sharing platform will make them more willing to impart their knowledge to drive innovation in their company. Simultaneously, the value-adding results HR achieves through improved employee retention rates will increase the function’s credibility. 

Attracting top talent to your organisation

Attracting top talent to your business is vital for future growth. With leadership increasingly turning to HR to establish a strong employer brand and company culture to bring in skilled workers, it is essential to demonstrate that the business has a culture of innovation and is a fun place to work.

Our research shows that many UK businesses are currently failing to establish this sort of culture. In fact, 65% of employees believe not enough is done to encourage them to contribute in the innovation process. In terms of the key challenges for workers in sharing ideas, 37% believe that those shared are lost or unacknowledged; and 27% state there’s a lack of interest in their ideas.

Implementing an idea management platform is a good basis for driving innovation, but without nurturing a culture of innovation, enterprises won’t be able to attract the talent needed. In other words, HR must help businesses achieve a culture of ‘EveryDay Innovation.’

Waitrose is a prime example of a company which has benefited from imbedding innovation into everyday working life across the organisation. It has received over 22 innovative new ideas a week over the last 18 months, generating significant cost-savings. One idea saw the formatting and management of till receipts transformed, allowing the retailer to save over £100k annually.

Rewarding and recognising leading innovators

Sometimes giving employees a platform to contribute to innovation isn’t enough. Our research shows that 27% of UK workers believe there’s a lack of incentives for them to share their ideas in the first place. It is therefore key for HR to make recommendations about how the business can recognise and reward employees who share their knowledge.  

This is where HR’s increasingly important role in talent nurturing comes into play. Organisations are investing in effective talent management programs and turning to HR to help them attract, train and retain high performing workers. By helping to create working environments which reward proactivity, HR directors can not only boost appetite for innovating among existing workforces but also entice people away from competitors.

Rewarding workers for contributing to the innovation process also encourages them to view their own goals as aligned to those of their employers. Similarly, performance metrics can keep those less willing to contribute ideas in check. For example, an employee’s contributions to the idea management platform, including submitting ideas and collaborating to build on other ideas, can be built into their annual appraisal and personal goals. With these kinds of measures in place, businesses can intrinsically link the sharing of employee knowledge with their ability to drive sustainable and effective innovation.

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