July 23, 2018
Helping creative, entrepreneurial talent flourish
By: Jill K. Goldstein

More and more, organizations are being buffeted by rapid and significant change across their industries, markets, and customer bases. And in response, according to new research from Accenture Operations, leading organizations are increasingly looking to harness talent, data, and intelligence to transform their processes and make them more agile and responsive. A key element in this move to intelligent operations is creative, innovative talent who understand how to apply digital technologies to solve critical business problems.

Such talent is different from the people most organizations historically have hired and, as we noted in the previous post in this series, requires a different approach to recruiting. In this final installment, we look at an equally important dimension of this talent challenge: how to unleash this talent’s creative potential to improve the organization’s performance.

It’s not uncommon for organizations to value and hire innovative talent, but then fail to adapt their culture to embrace the healthy and positive disruption these individuals may trigger. These organizations prove the point that individuals’ creative potential can only be realized if they’re placed in an environment where it's supported, nurtured, and enabled. Here are some keys to creating such an environment.

Leadership to drive the pivot to new kinds of talent
Leaders need to set the tone in celebrating and supporting innovation and create a culture that allows people to fail without penalty. Innovation is messy and disruptive, but it’s critical to learning and developing the next big thing.

Communications and change management
Leaders may have aspirational plans to embrace a more innovative culture or operating model, but underestimate the change management effort required to propagate that mindset throughout the organization. For instance, in many big organizations, the workforce likely comprises long-time employees who are used to working a certain way and aren’t motivated to think and act differently. Their hands may also be tied by legacy technology, tools, and processes that are ingrained in the organization and very difficult to change. The fact is, changing mindsets and habits is not easy; it requires a lot of effort to bring everyone along, starting with informative, ongoing, and timely communications that clearly explain why change is important and necessary.

Attracting creative people is one thing; ensuring they flourish once hired, quite another. Six keys for #HR leaders from @JillKGoldstein:


Training and enablement
Six out of 10 executives participating in our study said reskilling the workforce will be important to achieving their business goals. Such reskilling needs to reflect today’s learning styles and preferences. Nearly gone is the model that leaned primarily on instructor-led classroom learning, replaced by the acknowledgement that people learn most and best by doing. In fact, as a recent Accenture report notes, shifting employees’ mindsets from point-specific training to lifelong learning helps make workers and organizations nimbler. Thus, workplace learning—including job shadowing and pairing, knowledge management systems, “ask the community,” apps, simulations, and “serious games”—should comprise most of the reskilling efforts. The remainder should be a combination of traditional formal and informal learning. Additionally, consistent with the agility an organization aspires to, training should be highly adaptable, flexible, and consumable on demand.

Rewards and recognition
Organizations must rethink how they reward and recognize innovative talent to incentivize these individuals to use their skills to the organization’s benefit. These new reward structures must recognize the fact that innovation often results in failure and, even when successful, can be detrimental in the short term. That’s why it’s important to avoid punishing people for failing, and encourage people to take managed risks knowing there’s the possibility things won’t work out as hoped—instead of always playing it safe, relying on traditional measures of success, and doing only what’s guaranteed to succeed.

Performance management
To spark creativity and innovative thinking, organizations need a new way to measure and manage talent. For example, it may make sense to eliminate the traditional annual performance review, as Accenture itself has done. Accenture has moved away from evaluations that compare employees’ performance against each other and established a more fluid process with ongoing feedback that helps people improve their performance and prepare for the next role or challenge.

HR operating model/working style
Finally, to unleash creative talent, organizations must transform the HR function so HR can do a better job on two fronts: bringing aboard the talent the organization truly needs and delivering business value beyond simply offering efficient individual workforce interactions. In other words, organizations need a new HR model that allows the HR to focus on the outcomes of the business—doing what’s necessary to boost the workforce’s performance and overall impact on the business—and not on HR itself. This model includes three elements:

  • Centers of expertise, which are responsible for thinking strategically about the organization’s biggest business challenges and goals, and what workforce-related policies, processes, and programs must be in place to achieve desired outcomes.
  • HR professionals who closely partner with the business to understand the specific type of workforce and talent needed in each area and help the business shape its workforce plans accordingly.
  • A shared services organization that uses innovative tools and processes to streamline and automate the delivery of primary HR services in a way that reduces operational costs while improving the overall employee experience.

As we noted in our study, the future belongs to organizations with intelligent operations, a key driver of which is innovative talent. Organizations need to be equipped to identify, hire, and develop such people, and then support them in the right way to deliver the outcomes the business needs.

Contact us to learn how to harness innovative talent for your organization.

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