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How can HR help the C-suite drive innovation?

New research from Ipsos MORI and Cirrus shows 49 percent of C-suite leaders say not enough attention is being paid to innovation.

The report, Leadership Connections: HR and the C-suite driving innovation, builds on 2015’s Leadership Connections research which found that a majority of C-suite leaders felt HR could do more to help them achieve their goals. The 2016 research further explores this to discover more about the C-suite’s priorities and the role of HR in helping to achieve these priorities. One C-suite leader in two is concerned about the innovation capabilities within their organisation, while a majority of employees and managers find enough attention is being paid to innovation (from 60 percent for managers to 69 percent for HR).

As illustrated in the graph below, fewer than three in ten see innovation as an area requiring organisational attention. One manager in five even thinks too much attention is paid to innovation at the present time, which can be interpreted as a sign of destabilisation in times of accelerated changes. The 24-point gap between the C-Suite and HR (not enough attention for 49 percent of C-suite respondents vs. 25 percent of HR respondents) points to a lack of alignment in this area and a potential underestimation of Board expectations. The HR contribution to build innovation capabilities is essential. It goes beyond simply attracting and retaining the right talent. HR teams need to develop the required leader and employee skill sets in order to foster a culture of innovation in their organisation.

“One of the biggest challenges for many large organisations today is encouraging a more entrepreneurial, responsive and risk-taking mind-set amongst all colleagues,” says Simon Hayward, CEO of Cirrus.  “This is a huge challenge when the number of colleagues runs into tens or even hundreds of thousands. Too often, bureaucracy can get in the way of maintaining a culture where innovation and improvement are valued and people feel confident to experiment without fear of failure. To fuel innovation, we need to encourage more collaborative ways of working and to increase learning and knowledge sharing.”

The Captains of Industry interviewed by Ipsos MORI selected ‘leadership development’ as one their three main areas where a higher contribution is expected from HR over the next 12 months.

This choice resonates with the post-recession change imperative. “A large number of challenges still lie ahead” says JB Aloy, executive director of Ipsos LEAD. “Many organisations went through leadership and organisation changes in the past few years. Business leaders are now becoming more focused on leadership style and cultural changes. Softer dimensions need to be addressed – and assessed – to continue to improve performance moving forward.” HR professionals have yet to be recognised as transformation agents. Around a fifth of C-suite leaders picked “business transformation” in their top-three selection of HR contribution areas in 2015. Traditional HR missions such as talent attraction and performance management continue to be on top of their list, leaving room for a greater partnership between the C-suite and HR teams to achieve the change and innovation agenda in 2016. Pledge for parity: it’s certainly no pipe dream.

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