HR innovation: how to get beyond the jargon

Last updated:
February 26, 2021
December 22, 2021
min read
Bev Campling
Table of contents

We hear the term “HR innovation” being used daily. But what is it exactly? Should you pay attention or is it just trendy jargon? To answer those questions briefly and in order: this article will tell you, yes, yes, and no!

Before we go on to understand HR innovation, those working in HR and talent acquisition should understand a few things first:. You should definitely pay attention to trends in innovation because as a recruiter or HR professional, you’re working in a dynamic, rapidly changing environment. I’m not only referring to HR tech and how it’s redesigning HR and hiring; everything is continuously evolving, from the workplace setting and operations to employee and candidate mindset. If you’re not open to innovation and change your competitors will rip your talent acquisition and staff retention processes to shreds in no time.

The term HR innovation is jargon, yes. But we also need to identify practices, and that’s the current term to refer to a vital requirement for business success. If you’re annoyed  by corporate jargon, remember that it’s a convenient way of communicating complicated issues in straightforward terms that all can understand.  We’ve been using jargon for centuries anyway, so just run with it!

Recruitment and HR has transformed

The role of HR has dramatically changed and will continue to evolve. As much as you need to embrace technology, you have to keep up to date with workplace trends as well as management and employee expectations.

Invention, creativity, and advancement have no boundaries, and neither does HR innovation. But there’s no paint-by-numbers solution! Innovation depends on your unique business environment, internal dynamics, and the overall willingness to change. HR innovation has to be accepted the whole company at every level for it to be successful.

Also, executive management must give HR the authority to implement change. There’s little value to being assigned the responsibility of change and innovation if you aren’t also given authority.

Where’s the starting point?

Before you can introduce innovative HR practices, you have to know where your company stands.

A few benchmarks to take before getting started:

  • What internal policies work,
  • What policies are questionable,
  • How your employer is brand perceived,
  • and most importantly: does your company culture embrace change.

We know that old habits die hard, so you have to uncover resistance to change before you try to make a change.

Can you convince someone who doesn’t want change that transformation is actually positive? Yes! This is best done in one on one meetings to discuss why they’re resisting new ways of doing things. Behind resistance, you’ll mostly find fear. Deal with it carefully and demonstrate that leaving old ways behind will open new avenues, make the working environment more productive, and lead to greater success. Proof that innovation makes life easier usually makes resistance crumble.

Once you’ve convinced the die-hard “but we’ve always done it this way” team, your next step is to conduct employee and candidate surveys. You want to know how your staff feels and experiences their working environment. You also want to know how candidates perceive your employer brand. HR tech makes conducting surveys and gathering data a breeze, and they can either be ongoing or once off.

Now you’re ready to begin investigating and designing innovative HR practices for implementation.

What needs to change?

The reality is that starting with innovation is a bit like opening a pandora’s box. HR innovation is dictated by your organizations specific needs, your industry, evolving technology and the type of people you want to attract and retain.

To what degree has your company embraced technology? If the answer is “not so much” then that’s your first step. Using an ATS solution for hiring and talent analytics to make business decisions is a must if your business is going to stay on a trajectory of success.

Once you’ve implemented HR and hiring technology, you’ll easily be able to identify areas crying out for HR innovation. Usually, your focus will be on attracting the right talent, improving performance and staff retention, and employer branding. You might recognize other areas in your organizations apart from these.

1. Attracting the right talent

Most recruiters are using job boards and social media to source candidates, but are you doing it is a time and cost efficient way? Also, do you consider the placement of your adverts and the quality of your content? When we’re pushed for results and working under pressure, it’s easy to follow the same familiar routine to save time. But you don’t have to manually source platforms and become a copywriter to get the best results.

Predictive advertising

With a bit of research and innovation, you can integrate a programmatic advertising system with your HR software. Programmatic job advertising is an application that automatically places your job adverts on targeted platforms. How it works is that you specify the skills, requirements and qualifications of the role, and the software ensures that the job is exposed to the right people at the right time on applicable platforms only. You also get help with content. Not only will you save time and find the best candidates, but you’ll also cut your advertising spend.


Chatbots are quite well known by now, but are they integrated into your recruitment and selection process policy? They should be an item of your HR innovation list if not. A chatbot will take care of many of the small and tedious, but vital steps in recruitment. They can help you with sourcing, screening and responding to candidates. The more advanced chatbots have natural language processing capabilities, which means that they can recognize human language and provide limited responses. Chatbots are priceless when it comes to applicant and candidate interaction and feedback in the early stages of hiring. They respond via different platforms on your behalf, so candidates are never left waiting and wondering.

Preselection processes

Preselection tools that allow you to ask applicants several questions are available on most job boards, but it can go further. With the right software, you can get applicants to do online assessments to check their personality traits, communication, skills, motivation and more. This means that you can eliminate unsuitable applicants and compile a candidate shortlist very early on in the hiring process. You also know off the bat where your shortlisted candidates’ strengths and weaknesses lie.

Onboarding tools

An onboarding application takes care of all the paperwork involved with new hires and leaves nothing out when it comes to embracing new employees with love to make them feel welcome. It also go way beyond that. They take over from the job offer stage, ensuring that the new employee receives all their documentation, and they keep in touch until the starting date, so you never lose touch with your new hire and the employee doesn’t feel like they’ve been forgotten. Many of the platforms go beyond the starting date as well, keeping track of employee performance and managing all records.

2. Improving performance and staff retention

From an HR perspective, your focus is on improving staff productivity as opposed to production performance. Your staff satisfaction survey should give you a good idea of how employees feel and analytics reports will identify weak areas in the business. Some of the most common triggers of poor productivity include:

  • Staff need training: do you have a training and development program? Often job roles evolve, but employers forget to upskill their employees.
  • Staff feel excluded: are employees kept informed or do they hear everything through the grapevine? Old-style management was for decisions to be made by a few and instructions to be issued to the rest.
  • Employee wellness: are your staff stressed, tired and therefore unable to perform? We live in a fast-paced world where ongoing stress is accepted. Often the workplace contributes substantially to peoples’ stress levels as well.

How can HR innovation change any of these issues?

Invest in performance management software. Gone are the days of the annual performance appraisal. Quality PM software allows you to write accurate job profiles, define expectations, and create objectives that align with the company’s goals. You can also document performance and give and get employee feedback in real time. So performance appraisals are ongoing, and you’ll quickly pick up any employees who are struggling, feeling out of their depth or bored in their job.You can immediately decide if someone needs additional training or more management support. You’ll also be able to recommend employees for promotion or redeployment if they’ve outgrown their job.

This approach will significantly improve employee retention as well as loyalty because employees will feel valued and appreciate that you intervened before they put their CV out in the job market.

PM systems also improve employee engagement through transparency, recognition and feedback, so employees no longer feel excluded. Staff can contribute to team, department and company goals while staying informed of changes, progress and results.

Making changes with technology

You can identify stress-related absenteeism and low-performance levels from insights gleaned from your PM system as well. By regularly communicating with employees, you can pinpoint the causes and introduce wellness programs to improve your employees’ quality of life. People who believe that their employer cares about them will also respond with loyalty, so they won’t readily leave. There are so many ways that HR innovation can achieve that, depending on the size and type of working environment, but there’s no one size fit all solution.

Here are some ideas:

  • Encourage a healthy lifestyle by having a gym on site or paying for gym subscriptions. Reward employees who make progress in their fitness (smart gadgets are a great way of keeping track) with vouchers for healthy eating, sports equipment, etc.
  • Offer mental health counselling in a private and caring environment. Promote mental health through employee communication tools. Also, encourage employees to practice self-care by bringing a yoga and meditation teacher in or paying for sessions. If an employee has issues that need professional help, refer them to a counsellor and pay for the appointments.
  • Offer information on healthy eating. A poor diet leads to a myriad of health complications including lethargy, inflammatory conditions and high blood pressure. If you’re not feeling well, it’s challenging to be productive. Share healthy eating tips and information via employee communication tools regularly. If you have a canteen, serve healthy meals and snacks. Also, consider engaging the services of a dietician who can consult with employees one-on-one or in groups.
  • Promote financial wellness through employee communication tools and bring in experts on financial planning to speak to staff and give them advice. You can offer confidential services like debt counselling and legal advice too. Many people lack financial literacy but are too ashamed to ask for help. Solve their problems without them having to ask. Few things cause more stress than living from paycheck to paycheck and hiding from debt collectors.

Stay in innovation mode

Technology evolves all the time with new solutions being launched all of the time. Your company vision and goals are changing as well, so keep your finger on the pulse of innovative HR practices to ensure that your organization remains profitable and also becomes an employer brand of choice.

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