Innovation for HR

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Imagination, co-creation and the capability to execute Expert Günter Pfeiffer talks about the new role of Human Resources

By Matthias Mueller

How can this happen? Based on self-conception and mission, HR needs to be both empowered and enabled to fulfil the transformation task. HR staff need to be trained, in particular, in methods of human-centric design and 42

SWISS BUSINESS · May/June 2011

co-creation in order to provide solution platforms to business and people. Are there examples of successful implementation? A good illustration is generation management. As experience shows, ready-to-implement HR instruments do not always meet clients' needs. For example, early retirement programmes are the easy way out for HR and line management, but are not sustainable instruments to deal with demographic change. Value creating, sustainable solutions could be achieved by co-creating solutions with all people involved. I initiated the ‘Demographie Forum Schweiz’ to support enterprises in developing sustainable business solutions in our era of demographic change. Swisscom used this approach to create the ‘best age customer contact centre’. A working group was set up by HR comprising older members of upper line management, employees, customers and an innovation coach. The group was empowered to come up with ideas on how the company could develop attractive assignments for older employees, especially those about to lose their job, that simultaneously generated added value for customers and the corporation. Among other ideas, the idea of a “best age customer centre” –

staffed with experienced employees aged 50-plus who serve customers aged 60-plus – was developed and realised. Customer satisfaction and loyalty in this market segment improved. Will this innovation influence the understanding of human capital management in a broader sense? The case above shows the accountable business impact and value creation of HR acting as a player and applying human-centric leadership and management, reflecting a change in human capital management. This shift is supported by the discussions on values and ethics following the financial market crisis. Will HR be more exciting in 20 years? Today, HR is transforming itself by using social media, portals and other web 2.0 services. The interconnection and interaction of billions of people around the globe via the internet is increasing the transparency of organisations and individuals. This will enhance the scope of HR and affect the HR service delivery model. Life will change even more dramatically in the next decades. Assuming a leading role in managing fundamental change and transformation adds to the future attractiveness of HR.

PHOTO: News Service

What sort of innovation is needed for Human Resources? Günter Pfeiffer: HR is expected to grow from a business partner into a player role. HR needs to be innovative and proactive in shaping this future role. It all starts with anticipating business and client needs. As Einstein said: 'Logic will get you from A to B; imagination will take you everywhere.' In Europe, we are facing ageing societies and ageing customer and employee bases. Demographic change is one of the global challenges besides increasing speed of change, more disruptive shifts and increasing uncertainty. HR is required to cope with these challenges and to lead the resulting business transformation by organisation and people development, even though the HR role varies in different corporations due to different strategic priorities. Drivers of HR innovation are imagination, the willingness to shape the future, the use of co-creation in the process of developing solutions and the capability to execute.


Günter Pfeiffer

O pen innovation PROFILE Dr. Günter Pfeiffer serves as member of several supervisory boards and advisory boards. Until end of 2010 he was Chief Personnel Officer and member of the Swisscom Group Executive Board. In this role, he shaped and supported the continuous transformation of the company towards customer-centricity. Before he switched to the HR side of the business, he was in charge of strategy, participations management, international projects for Swiscom, e.on, T-Mobile and Detecon. Günter Pfeiffer studied Economics at Bonn University followed by a doctorate at Cologne University.

New tools aim to develop innovation via the use of web applications. James Surowieckis concept of "the wisdom of the crowds" stands behind this: as the field of innovation becomes more open, there will be more contributions. And the wisdom of the crowd can predict the acceptance and success of an idea. Currently, there are two forms of web-based innovation: one open to the public, the other within a company. Atizo is the most advanced tool provider of open innovation for the public in Switzerland. Enterprises can publish their questions on the Atizo website and receive propositions and ideas from more than 8,000 Atizo members. The best ideas are rewarded financially. For example, in a past campaign, Cailler asked for chocolate innovations and received astonishing ideas, such as a package that glowed in the dark for people who prefer to savour chocolate at night. Ecosport asked for ecological ideas for sports clubs and had simple responses, like "shower with cooler water" – the idea presented in this campaign is that the running tracks could be transformed into power stations, the trampling of the runners could be used for producing electricity. Swiss Post applies open innovation via an application that can be used by

every employee. Pierre-Yves Caboussat, head of Innovation Management Swiss Post, explains: "There are a lot of valuable ideas and smart people dozing in the organisation. With idea campaigns, we bring them out and are able to produce benefits for customers as well as the company." The overall goal of such open idea management – which in the case of Swiss Post is provided by – is to increase total revenue by innovating new services and opening up new markets. But Caboussat also sees cultural and social advantages: "Our employees become more motivated when they see that their company really wants them to produce relevant ideas. There are also some benefits on the organisational level: the relevant people are discovered more easily and thanks to the application, the employees start to network and share their ideas." Thus, "collaborative innovation" becomes manageable and can contribute to the development of the company.

SWISS BUSINESS · May/June 2011


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