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For years I (and my networks) have worked with companies wanting to be innovative. We have applauded their quest, and even gone along for the ride (at least emotionally). But in most instances, we have come away asking,

That’s a lot of questions to be answered and I certainly don’t claim to know all the answers. But in this post, I attempt to come to terms with these questions and think about what this could mean for employees now and future generations of employees.

Do Companies Really Let Innovators Innovate?

It is usual to find “innovation” or being “innovative” listed as a value or philosophy for many companies. However, most companies are unable to live-up to such values. Is that because they are evil?

Most likely not, most companies genuinely believe that it is important to be innovative because they know it's the only way to survive in a competitive world. But when it comes to the execution of this value and embedding it, most companies fail or do a very poor job.

Whilst advertising employee innovation is part of communicating the company’s vision, that is a mere start to the journey. A journey that not only begins with hiring new people to model employee innovation but also by working out how to enthuse their existing people to change behaviors.

This is where most companies go horribly wrong. Without changing their existing culture and behaviors, companies that bring on new staff that thrive on innovation are most likely headed towards frustration all around.

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How Can A Company Be Truly Agile?

Agility is key to organizations outlasting their competition in the 21st century. But, how many companies truly embrace agility? And more importantly, how do companies challenge their status quo while trying to be more agile? Is it as simple as challenging every decision?

For years now, concepts of agile have been thrown around at conferences and popular business media. But, how does that translate to changing and shifting a company to actually practice agility?

Again, similar to being innovative, it is certainly not sufficient to bring in an agile expert or set up a Centre of Excellence (CoE) if company processes do not deal with being agile. Modeling processes based on cutting a few old steps out is not going to be enough either.

These processes, along with the people and technology involved, have to be re-thought and challenged, and furthermore exemplified by the leaders of the organization.

When Should A Company Hire Innovators?

I am not sure I know the answer to this one at all. Should companies wait until they change their existing behaviors before hiring external expertise and risk being left behind anyway?

I don’t believe there is one way, and perhaps the only suggestion I may offer to companies wanting to embark on such journeys is to work with their change leaders and trailblazers in analyzing whether there is an appetite for such a change.

Can HR Business Partners Help The Situation?

Now that is one question I do know the answer to. Yes, HR business partners can certainly help companies think through their hiring decisions very carefully, challenge their managers, urge them to think about the support required post-hiring and help them understand the consequences of losing the trust of both their existing and new employees.

Ultimately, the culture and values of a company are shaped by the people who work there and the processes they follow. If any of those are not in harmony, it is very likely the company will need a significant investment in changing and balancing each of those elements to be successful in their change journey.


There's lots questions when it comes to innovation and agility, and I certainly don’t claim to know all the answers but I'd love to know what your thoughts are on innovation, your team's perfromance, and your organization's journey with it. In fact, here are 5 Powerful Performance Review Questions To Tap Your Team's Potential to help you!

Let's talk about it in the comments! Better yet, join our community of HR experts (sign up for the waitlist here) to chat with other practitioners in the field about it.

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By Tim Reitsma

Tim has deep experience in HR, people & culture, leadership, business strategy and operations with a focus on building great teams who are excited about their craft and their organization. With over 15 years of leadership experience, Tim has always been guided by his core values: faith, family, curiosity, and fun. He is a coach, mentor, speaker, advisor, and an active volunteer in his community. Tim loves spending time outdoors with his wife and two kids as well as mountain biking in the north shore mountains.