HR needs to be bold and brave enough to stand alone—and to challenge the status quo

In my first post, I explained why it is important to be bold and brave enough to take risks, to fail—fast—and why companies need to be more open to vulnerability.

This brings me to the second part of my discussion—what can financial services (FS) organizations gain by adopting a philosophy and a culture that dares employees to be different?

Bravery should come from the top

It’s not enough for the C-suite to tell the workforce that they need to be brave and innovative—they need to show them by leading by example. Business leaders also need to create an environment that embraces failure, understanding that it is an inevitable step toward successful innovation. Leaders must create a workplace culture that is not purely focused on the bottom line—but enables employees to use their creativity every step of the way. We have seen some great examples of companies that celebrate failure; for example, the Tata Group in India that gives an award for the best failed idea!

Does all bravery come from the top? No, I think it’s more about these leaders also setting a safe and supportive environment for bravery and innovation, and also some modicum of vision so progress has purpose and direction.

HR = high risk, high return

As I mentioned in my first post, there’s great potential for creativity within human resources. John Sumser famously proclaimed in 2011 that “HR is a 47-year-old white woman”, and in 2016, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 72 percent of HR practitioners are female. So, why don’t we start there?

But what about the gender bias? How could we overcome this in our organizations? One way is to affirm each other’s creativity.

This is a challenge to all FS organizations out there: why don’t you have weekly sessions of design thinking to shake out crazy ideas and see if any of them is worth exploring? Your next best idea might come from a place you least expect.

Back to vulnerability

This brings me back to Brené Brown’s idea of drawing strength from vulnerability.

HR is often pushed to ‘cut costs’ and ‘deliver more business value’. There is potential here for HR to be vulnerable in saying: yes, we will cut costs in these areas and apply the savings to up-skilling in another area because we believe this is where the future begins. This means having the courage to build a case for a talent-focused investment.

Brown says the power of vulnerability lies in three things:

  1. Courage—having the courage to be imperfect;
  2. Compassion—for the self and others; and
  3. Connection—letting go of preconceived ideas in order to make real, genuine connections.

If in HR we’re able to embrace these three things, we will be in a position to create a space that encourages innovation that opens the doors to new possibilities.

Taking risks: what are the benefits of being brave?

If the C-suite encourages HR to be creative and to think outside the box, it stands to reason that HR’s visible efforts will inspire the rest of the workforce to follow suit.

The benefits of a company culture that encourages, nurtures and rewards creativity are legion. A culture such as this enables innovation at every level of the organization and can shift the entire mindset of the enterprise. This aligns with the current focus on creating a truly agile organization that achieves both speed and stability. Truly agile organizations are also twice as likely to perform in the top financial quartile.

In a recent blog post on building the future workforce, Accenture Managing Director Andy Young says FS organizations that want to be truly agile, need to:

  1. Foster an environment for innovation;
  2. Cultivate a living business culture;
  3. Accelerate change and develop true agility; and
  4. Grow their new workforce.

Visit his blog for more of Young’s writing on the Agile Organization.

Innovation and agility need each other. Innovation powers enterprise agility with new ideas, especially new ways to serve customers. Enterprise agility means the organization is responsive and adaptive enough to be able to absorb and scale innovation.  Many of the characteristics of these organizations are shared, especially being more human in their approach.

Vulnerability is a risky business

The nature of risk is different from before, and so we need to be bold in how we face those risks. Our 2017 Global Risk Management Study found six factors that influence the effectiveness of businesses’ risk management function:

Click to enlarge.

Insurers are responding to the evolving nature of risk by doing three things:

  1. Harnessing digital innovation: insurers are investing in new technologies to enhance efficiency and improve risk outcomes.
  2. Balancing old and new skills: Chief risk officers are investing in the skills to exploit new tools, business models and technology.
  3. Integrating across the business: Insurers are continually striving to embed coordination and achieve risk balance.

These insurers are reaping the benefits of their efforts. They are forging ahead and creating new paths for others to follow, imitate or improve upon.

In my next post, I’ll explain how financial services can be innovative in their journey with the cloud.

To find out more about digital HR in FS or to join us at the Change Directors Forum and People Innovation Forum in London, please contact me here or on Twitter @knott_nic.

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