Human resources innovation is changing the workplace as we know it. But what are HR innovations and how can you harness them for your own organization? Read on to find out.
The world of HR is in constant flux.
From its origins in the British Industrial Revolution to its American emergence during the post-war period of the 1950s - the profession has constantly ebbed and flowed alongside the changing needs of both employees and the companies that they work for.
But it’s perhaps over the past five years that HR has experienced its biggest changes.
In our modern world, the workplace is evolving like never before. New advancements in technology, remote working practices and the impact of a global pandemic have all fundamentally altered the makeup of professional life.
And that in turn is changing the way that HR professionals work.
Today HR is more important than ever. Organizations are looking to professionals to help them rethink the way they manage their people; adopting even more creative tools, technologies and techniques to manage their workforce.
In this article, we’ll explore how human resources innovations are changing the workplace. We’ll also examine some of the biggest HR innovations and discuss how you can implement them to engage employees within your own organization.
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Innovation is something that happens in every area of your business. It could be the development of a new product, a new manufacturing technique, a unique new way of working or just an improved process to improve the efficiency of your facilities.
Essentially, innovation is the act of developing and implementing new ideas, methods and technologies to enhance your business.
The same is true for HR.
HR innovation is about anticipating the changing needs of your workforce and developing new solutions to help meet them.
It could be a form of technology, like implementing AI-powered recruitment tools. It could be developing new policies to enhance employee engagement. Or it could be implementing new wellness and benefits programs to better support your people’s wellbeing.
Whatever form it takes, human resources innovation is vital for organizations. Get it right and you can create an environment where your people thrive. Get it wrong however and you run the risk of being left behind by your competition.
Employee retention (20%) is the most important priority for HR professionals in 2023, followed by recruiting at 14% and company culture at 12% HR Reporter.
80% of HR professionals believe that incorporating new technologies into their processes improved employee attitude toward the company. HR World.
On average, there should be 1.4 HR staff for every 100 employees in your organization. Forbes.
Less than half (43%) of HR leaders believe their employees are satisfied with the HR technology used by their organization. Gartner.
67% of HR professionals believe that AI will have a positive impact on the recruitment process. Tidio.
Organizations across the globe are facing a perfect storm of HR challenges right now.
There’s the engagement and retention issues created by the so-called “Great Resignation.” Then there’s the challenges posed by our rapid shift to hybrid and remote working. HR teams also have to consider the growing issue of diversity, equity and inclusion, a competitive talent market, and a cost-of-living crisis that’s propelled remuneration up the agenda.
These challenges aren’t just HR issues however, they’re business issues.
Faced with so many challenges, business-as-usual is no longer an option for organizations. Instead, HR teams are having to innovate, turning to new tools, technologies and techniques in order to find solutions to today’s problems.
So what are some of the key challenges that are fuelling HR innovation right now?
Among the laundry list of challenges facing HR teams right now, perhaps the biggest priority is the issue of employee engagement.
That’s because, over recent years, employee engagement has been trending downwards. According to Gallup, it’s been in steady decline with engagement rates falling from 36% in 2020 to 34% in 2021, 32% in 2022 and 31% in 2023.
It’s a worrying slump, especially as employee engagement can impact everything from productivity to performance. It’s no wonder then that employee engagement has become one of the most talked about issues in recent months, with trends like so-called “Quiet Quitting” and “Lazy Girl Jobs” dominating the headlines.
It’s clear that the current approaches are falling short, and organizations are increasingly focussing their efforts on finding new solutions to the employee engagement crisis.
We all know that wellbeing is an important part of our personal lives, but increasingly employers are beginning to switch on to the role that it plays in our professional activities too.
Issues like burnout and absenteeism are unfortunately on the rise, leading employers to find new and improved ways to support their people beyond traditional benefits packages. Burnout in particular is costing businesses billions every year. Recent research suggests that as many as three-quarters (75%) of professionals in North America have experienced burnout, suffering side effects that range from feelings of exhaustion and energy depletion to negativity and reduced efficiency.
Absenteeism is also costing businesses big. Current estimates identify workplace absences caused by illness as a major threat to productivity, one that leads to a staggering $250 billion in lost income every year in the US alone.
With such eye-watering costs to the economy, business leaders are turning to their HR teams for solutions - looking for programs that consider the wellbeing of their employees both inside and outside of the office.
The Battle for Talent continues to rage as employers across the globe seek to fill record numbers of roles. Workers are in painfully short supply and there simply aren't enough candidates to fill the growing number of roles on the market. In fact, right now in the US, there are nearly twice as many openings as there are workers to fill them.
Faced with such fierce competition businesses are increasing their investments in retention and recruitment. Innovations are being implemented to help overcome outdated hiring methods, providing a better experience for candidates while reducing the strain on overworked HR departments.
Retention has also become a key issue. Today’s employees aren't just looking for an attractive salary and a corner office, they need something more. That means businesses are looking for novel new ways to make people feel like they belong, and to give them a sense of purpose that will keep them in their roles rather than seeking employment elsewhere.
Recent years have brought about seismic changes in every aspect of our lives, including the way we work. In just a few short months organizations have experienced decades worth of change as workplaces have pivoted to remote and hybrid structures in the wake of COVID-19.
But while it may have started during lockdown this new way of working is here to stay. Indeed one survey revealed that 82% of employees now view remote working as the new normal.
The sudden shift in the way we work has brought with it a host of benefits for both people and their employers. But it’s also created new challenges for HR teams to overcome. This has led organizations across the world to re-examine every aspect of their business in order to manage the shift to distributed models. From employee onboarding to communication, innovation is needed to ensure that teams are connected, even when they’re physically apart.
No longer just a “nice to have,” a robust learning and development offering is becoming a business imperative for organizations.
Why? Well, a lot of it has to do with a growing skills gap. According to researchers, good leaders have never been harder to find. Across the world, there’s a global leadership vacuum, with pipelines drying up and organizations struggling to develop the next generation of talent that will fill the shoes of existing C-Suite members.
It’s not just at the top table where learning and development are becoming motivators for change either, it’s impacting every area of your business. Today’s top talent, particularly employees who hail from younger generations don’t just want opportunities to develop themselves, they expect them. Research suggests that 68% of millennials believe that a clear path to career progression is a key factor in keeping them engaged and motivated in their roles.
With textbooks and classrooms going the way of the Dodo, career development is having to reinvent itself and HR teams are increasingly turning to new innovations in order to up their L and D game.
“The value of an idea lies in the using of it”- Thomas Edison
As the old saying goes: “The only constant is change.” In the world of HR, new innovations are constantly influencing the way that organizations operate. There are countless ways that you can change to better support your people, but here are nine suggestions for human resources innovations that make a real impact.
In a world of job boards, one-click applications and a candidate-driven market - HR teams are being increasingly spread thin. The average corporate job posting receives at least 250 applicants. If HR teams spend around 10 minutes looking over the resumes of each applicant, that equates to 42 hours of time just to decide who you are going to shortlist. Add in the time for interviews, offers and reference checks and it’s easy to see why recruitment teams are feeling overwhelmed.
But human resources innovations can help.
New technologies can help recruitment teams to replace outdated practices with streamlined new systems that save time and help to identify quality candidates. The latest AI-powered recruitment tools can be used to automatically screen applicants and identify candidates that meet the requirements of a particular role. Technology can also be used to automatically conduct proficiency tests, schedule interviews and gather additional information on candidates.
Another advantage of AI-driven recruitment tools is that they have the potential to remove bias and unconscious bias from recruitment processes. At a time when organizations are increasingly focussed on diversity, equity and inclusion - technology can play a key role in transformation.
From presenteeism to the growing issue of burnout - the impact of wellbeing on the workplace has been brought into sharp focus for organizations during recent years. As a result, employers are looking beyond their current health plans to find new ways of bringing wellbeing to life.
It all adds up to one of the most exciting areas of innovation within human resources, giving teams the opportunity to make a tangible impact on people’s lives. At a basic level, we’re seeing more and more companies offer things like subsidised gym memberships and healthy office snacks in a bid to encourage their employees to make healthier choices.
These changes are a great start, but more innovation is needed if employers are going to get to the root of the problem.
Innovations in virtual healthcare, for example, offer a great opportunity to give your employees access to the resources and advice they need to stay healthy. We’re also seeing companies changing up their wellness offerings, helping to encourage employees to take care of themselves while at the same time offering a sought-after benefit that can help them to stand out in a crowded marketplace.
Mental health is another area where we’re seeing human resources innovations come on in leaps and bounds. Many organizations now offer dedicated mental health first-aiders or access to private third-party tools that offer therapy, coaching and self-care solutions. The goal is not just to help people who are suffering from burnout, but tackle the root cause of it.
At work, we’re used to receiving recognition in a very structured way. Whether it’s an employee of the month competition or an annual review, typically it’s our managers who are tasked with making sure our efforts are appreciated.
But what if instead of being recognized by your managers you were recognized by your colleagues? That’s where peer recognition comes in.
Put simply, peer-to-peer recognition is a program where employees at any level can acknowledge or thank each other for their efforts. Often informal, it encourages colleagues to recognize each other’s achievements, skills, or efforts. This could take the form of a handwritten note, an announcement on social media, a simple “thank you” on Slack, or through a dedicated employee recognition platform like Bucketlist.
Whatever form it takes however, peer-to-peer recognition is designed to empower people to show that they are valued and appreciated - a simple act that can make people feel happier, more motivated and more satisfied in their roles.
Recognition is a basic human need, one that we’re all hard-wired to respond to. But in today’s modern workplace traditional ideas like employee of the month awards and annual performance bonuses look increasingly out of place.
Platforms like Bucketlist, make it easy and fun for employees and managers to recognize and reward one another. From milestones and achievements to daily shoutouts for a job well done. It’s a human resources innovation that makes recognition more dynamic, more effective and more personalized.
An area of human resources innovation that should make any leaders’ ears prick up is the advancements that are being made in employee listening.
First of all, no, this isn’t a way of eavesdropping on your people to make sure they’re working. It’s actually a series of tools that makes it easier than ever to engage with your people.
How are they feeling? Do they have everything they need to perform to the best of their abilities? Do they feel engaged in their work? And if not, what can you be doing to change that? These are the kinds of questions that organizations need to be asking their people.
Traditionally these would be reserved for things like performance reviews and annual pulse surveys. The problem with this approach is that the way your people feel is constantly changing. Their happiness ebbs and flows as does their engagement. All of which means, that what they told you when you asked them at the end of last year could be vastly different from what they might tell you if you asked them today.
Employee listening tools however enable you to measure sentiment in real time. You can run regular surveys, encourage ongoing feedback or seek staff input on specific changes that you are thinking of making. It’s a great way of not only boosting levels of engagement and satisfaction but actively monitoring for warning signs so that you can address them before they grow into critical issues.
As the world of work has transitioned towards new models over recent years, we’ve seen a surge in human resources innovations designed to bridge the gap between remote employees. These tools and technologies are being implemented in order to digitally recreate the physical workspaces we once shared.
From communications to collaboration, these platforms are changing the way we work. In fact, they’ve already changed them. Indeed if you’re currently using tools like Teams or Slack then you’ve already taken the first steps towards this new way of working.
The challenge for HR teams however is to incorporate these innovations into the overall organization. What’s the right mixture of tools? How should they be used? Do you need to create policies to govern their usage? These are all questions that organizations need to ask themselves as they adopt the latest innovations.
There’s an app for that. In fact, there’s an app for just about everything these days. So why shouldn't apps be a part of your company culture too? From payslips to vacation booking, there are mobile solutions for almost every aspect of company life and giving your people access to them is a great way to empower them.
In just a few swipes you could give your people access to their payslips, or a list of all of the benefits and perks that they’re eligible to receive. You could even take things further and build in functionality that allows your employees to swap shifts, to recognize each other’s achievements or track their performance in real time.
Whether you custom-build your own or use one of the out-of-the-box platforms, apps are an example of a simple HR innovation that can make a big impact for employers.
AI-powered chatbots have become a ubiquitous part of our everyday lives. You’ve probably already experienced them as a form of customer service or sales support, but now chatbots are making their way into the world of HR too.
So how do they work?
In a business setting HR chatbots use AI to assist employees. They’re there to answer common questions that people might have or overcome simple issues. They can be used to answer questions about policies, benefits or processes. They could even be used to onboard new starters or manage annual leave.
These innovations aren’t designed to replace HR teams but to enhance them. They’re there to take the hassle out of the most common issues that HR teams across the world face. Best of all, because they are completely automated, chatbots can drastically reduce the amount of time that HR teams spend on these tasks - freeing them up to focus their efforts on bigger issues. Unlike HR teams, chatbots are also available 24/7, so employees can get the information they need any time of day or night without delay.
At a time when human resources departments are being challenged like never before, these innovations can offer a vital tool to help achieve more, with less.
From the app you use to track your steps to the rewards program at your favourite coffee spot, there’s a good chance that you’ve experienced gamification at some point in your life. So what exactly is it? Put simply gamification is the process of incorporating typical elements of game playing - such as point scoring, competition and leaderboards - into other areas of professional life.
Done right it can encourage engagement and make even the most menial of tasks seem fun. That’s why it’s set to be one of the hottest innovations in HR right now. Enabled by the growing number of digital platforms, you can use gamification to liven up your training programs, enhance employee engagement or bring your entire organization together for a bit of healthy competition. It’s all about creating a sense of interactivity that fosters a better sense of employee engagement.
“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.”-Theodore Levitt
Now that you’ve got some idea of what human resources innovations are available and the impact that they can have on your organization, it’s time to start putting them into action. So how exactly do you implement innovations? It’s as much about changing your mindset as it is about changing the way you work.
To help you get started here are a few things to consider as you seek to encourage HR innovation.
If you want to know what innovations could change the game for your organization’s HR there’s only one place you should start. Your human resources team will know exactly what’s needed to take your people management to the next level. They know where the pain points are, where your efforts need to be improved and what is needed to help them make change happen.
It’s important to remember that innovation isn't something that’s reserved for human resources. It’s a company-wide issue.
If you want to be the kind of workplace that embraces human resources innovation and takes the opportunity to blaze a new trail rather than follow a well-trodden path, then you need to make innovation a part of your culture. It needs to be incorporated into your values, encouraged at every level from C-suite to front office and acted upon at every opportunity.
HR innovation needs buy-in from your whole organization if it’s going to succeed. It’s not something that can be dictated, instead, you need to encourage everyone in your organization to become active participants in order to achieve success.
That means that you need to consult your people, to get their input on any changes that you are thinking of making. You also want to engage them to help you roll out your innovations, acting as champions to promote your new ways of working within their own individual teams.
Look we get it, change can be scary. Especially when it’s happening as fast as it is right now. As a result, it can be tempting to hold back, to wait and see where innovation takes us rather than actively invest in it.
The problem is that while you're standing on the sidelines your competition is forging ahead. Innovation isn't a choice, it’s a necessity. It’s always been the lifeblood of successful businesses, but in an increasingly competitive talent market, it’s becoming a prime concern for HR teams too.
We’re not saying that you should jump on every new tool and technology that comes on the market. But you also can’t be afraid to invest in the innovation that your HR teams need in order to deliver the best possible employee experience.
Whether you’ve got big plans or you want to start with something smaller, remember the ultimate goal of human resources innovation is to create a better way of working. Building a more efficient and effective workplace is in everyone’s interest. Innovation will certainly help to lighten the load on your HR department. But it will also help you to engage your employees, creating happier, healthier and more productive teams in the process.