Mike England: HR – leading the way in business agility and innovation

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In a business environment characterised by change, transformative trends and the never-ending drive to increase productivity while reducing costs, the keyword for organisational longevity is agility. The ability to adapt quickly and effectively to change, often on a global scale, is a true competitive advantage for any organisation. Agility, however, is not a quick fix, a once-off. It requires a sustained, organisation-wide mindset that is supported by management, the HR department, and above all, employees.

Traditionally, HR departments have tried to unify and homogenise workforce, in an effort to create a standardised culture. Now, however, in order to promote this idea of agility, HR departments are taking a more strategic, proactive role and are more focused on enablement within the business and encouraging diversity and nimbleness amongst staff.

In this modern landscape just what should the HR department be trying to achieve for a business? And what exactly should it be supporting?

Taking the lead in enabling innovation

Innovation is one factor that enables a business to be more competitive, and ultimately more successful. Innovation has inherent benefits for business processes, staff, the product or service on offer, and overall operations. How then does HR become an enabler of this drive for improvement? By becoming a proactive partner to management – leading instead of reacting, suggesting solutions before issues escalate into problems. The ideal HR department should be one that adopts and embraces policies, attitudes and technologies that encourage innovative and creative thinking, as well as the sharing, discussion and rewarding of these ideas, within its own structure. This internal culture of new ways of thinking and expressing ideas can then be rolled out to the rest of the organisation.

If an organisation, and the HR team particularly, wants to be more agile, and create more opportunities for innovation and competitiveness, then the focus needs to be on keeping abreast of the tools and technologies available that will underpin these approaches.

Building a collaborative environment

Collaboration, and the technology used to support it, is largely a way to simplify organisational communication and reduce the time wastage related to getting in touch with the right person, at the right time, in order to have the right conversation. Better communication efficiency means enhanced productivity.

The use of the most appropriate tools and technologies, such as Lync or Skype, to unify a globalised workforce is key to creating this collaborative environment. By reducing the complexities of internal communication, both from a functionality point of view (for example, knowing if colleagues are in the office, available or in a meeting) and usability perspective, employees will be more inclined to start conversations, exchange information and seek feedback on ideas.

Collaboration technologies shape conversations, both internally and externally, and encourage employees to become more involved in social communications conversations.

Flexible working and creating a digital workspace

Technology is, without a doubt, the driver of flexible working initiatives and it falls to the HR team to ensure the success of these types of initiatives. An effective, flexible workforce adds agility to the business and is an asset in today’s competitive landscape.

Flexible workers have the potential to be more productive, while the option for working away from the office adds to employee satisfaction and retention.

In addition to collaboration tools, the technologies that enable flexible working make the working environment easier to navigate, especially for new employees who do not need as much time to acclimatise to a new organisational culture.

Building this digital workspace, complete with the technology framework and culture of efficiency, productivity and open communications is essentially creating an environment in which people want to work.

Employing Generation Y

They are the generation where broadband is a staple and smartphones are second nature; Gen Y is entering the workplace with the expectation that the technology, tools and methods of communication will match their experience in their personal lives. Typically this includes communicating via social media channels, instant messaging and video calling. Social media can be used to great effect within the organisation – to engage with customers and speak to employees. It can also be used as an effective recruitment tool, especially regarding the Y Generation.

By having the most current and effective communications technology framework in place, an organisation is more likely to attract and retain Gen Y employees.

Conclusion

The question of whether an HR department is agile enough is perhaps one without an absolute answer. Agility provides insight, and insight provides organisations with better ways of unlocking knowledge within employees and creating the environment that fosters innovation, efficiency and collaboration. This in turn supports the organisation’s ability to adapt quickly to change and move forward at pace. This ongoing and circular process is supported by the correct tools, technologies and culture.

Mike England, content director, Connected Business Expo

For further information about the Connected Business Expo taking place on 4-5 March at Olympia, London please visit: http://www.connected-business.co.uk/

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