How To Foster Innovation Within HR & Recruiting

How To Foster Innovation Within HR & Recruiting

Author: Anthony Onesto

We are currently at a crossroad in Human Resources. We have new ideas and methodologies disrupting, even destroying, traditional practices and organizational structures. There are still elements in Human Resources and Recruiting that we continue to practice and follow which don’t work in the new worlds of technology and unlimited information. Here are just a few:

Job Descriptions – yes, job descriptions are still being used by a majority of recruiting and hr departments. Typically the job description includes the title, a description of the job, required qualifications, and other details like the location. Can you imagine if we bought products and services this way? To buy a new laptop, you walk down an aisle with pieces of paper describing the laptop and what it can do. It would never work, so why should we not expect better in recruiting.

Performance Reviews – for decades people across organizations would take weeks out of their work year and conduct performance reviews. Many studies conducted said that performance reviews result in lower productivity, yet, until recently, we continued to perform this practice. We continued it in spite of consistent feedback from leaders and team members on its negativity. The good news is this practice is slowly dying, but what will take its place?

Organization Hierarchy – traditional hierarchy of command and control does not work in dispersed and culturally diverse teams. The idea of a team based approach with smaller levels of hierarchy allows organizations to expand and growth exponentially without the challenges of traditional organizational structures. Zappos is leading the charge here with Holocracy, but whatever you subscribed to, the old world hierarchy is ripe for disruption.

HR Technology – the big players in this space continue to refrain from driving innovation and disruption – it’s the Kodak effect. Some avoid game-changing ideas for the fear of risk of failure and the cannibalization of existing revenues. Instead, we see systems that lag in user experience, aren’t ubiquitous and have remnants of an older software business model. While there are many new players in this space who are disrupting some of the traditional software companies, this space is still VERY confusing for most HR and Recruiting leaders. Which technologies are exciting? Which technologies scale with my organization? What technologies are disrupting and not just iterating on existing platform ideas.

There are many more challenges around benefits, payroll, learning & development and other areas of Human Resources. So how do human resource leaders and their teams stay relevant with new innovations, but also build a space where people and the organizations can experiment with new programs and technologies? Here are some suggestions:

  • Trends – there are some interesting places to find HR trends, but in some cases, it’s somewhat of a lagging report. If you want bleeding edge, you can find it within events and groups like HR Open Source (HROS), HRDistrupt, Tech Talent Labs, and others who’s mission is to be on the forefront of HR, Recruiting, and Technologies.
  • Find Innovation – I am a big fan of open sourcing HR. Look to companies doing some interesting things in HR (Google, Zappos) and reach out to HR team members in these enterprises. Most HR professionals are happy to share stuff they do, especially if it’s in the spirit of sharing innovative practices and technologies.
  • Agile HR – the challenge with HR was similar to that of marketing, software engineering, and other functions within traditional companies. You researched, planned, and rolled out programs without getting input from employees and stakeholders, and by the time you rolled out the program, things changed. Think of HR in a design thinking or agile way and roll out programs that can be iterated, added to, or even retracted easily if they fail.
  • Fail and Fail Fast – the thing about great things it that there were 100 no so great ideas or programs before them. The idea is to try something and fail. Gary Vaynerchuck had a great post on Instagram recently – you are better off going 0 for 1, then 0 for 0 – love this. HR needs to learn how to fail and fail fast.

I am building an innovation process for human resource and recruiting teams that will guide them through an innovation & design thinking sprint. The concept is very simple and the goals are:

  1. Innovative program ideas or concepts
  2. MVP – Minimal viable program or product
  3. Connection(s) to a cutting edge and pre-vetted Human Resource or Recruiting startups
  4. Training your HR and Recruiting teams on how to take the principles of innovation, design thinking and brainstorming into their organizations.

Check out a brief deck on the concept below.

Anthony Onesto is a business leader with more than 18 years of strategy, product, recruiting, and human resources experience. Reach out to him at or 347.744.9070.

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