A Forbes article, discussing Steve Jobs and innovation at Apple, states that he ‘believed that a broad set of experiences lead people to conclusions that others might have missed.’
HR has the ability to bring in and nurture that broad set of experiences into the company. HR is then also tasked with the responsibility of accounting for those differences when they fail to consistently represent the company.
It’s the age-old struggle between consistency and diversity in HR.
What’s your strategy?
Making consistent choices based on past decisions definitely has its appeal because you know which ones met with success. As a company grows, it’s easy to take a checklist approach to decision making as the focus becomes productivity.
But if you refuse to deviate from that proven standard, you risk losing out on the outliers, the different experiences, which bring innovation to a company.
The secret to a successful HR department is the ability to reconcile and balance the two approaches in order to help the company grow. Here’s how.
The decisions HR makes about people, development, policy and many other areas play a major role in the value of the company. Keep in mind:
- The product of consistency is productivity
- The product of diversity is innovation
A company needs to be both productive and innovative to be successful. It’s for HR to decide what balance between consistency and diversity will create the desired value.
Decisions on recruitment and hiring
The way you recruit and the people you hire have a major impact on a company’s success. When making those decisions, do you strive for consistency or diversity?
Keep culture consistent. You do want to hire individuals to suit the company culture. Fitting into the culture is a major part of employee engagement which in turn plays a key role in the productivity of each team.
Look for diverse ideas. The personalities that will fit into your company’s culture won’t necessarily have the same background, experience, education or ideas. To stimulate innovation, you also want to hire the outliers who will bring new ideas to the table.
This means occasionally tossing the checklist to the side and looking at what a candidate can do for the company. Will they fit into the culture and complement the existing ways of thinking?
The best way to maintain the culture, but promote innovation is to take a proactive approach. Market your company to attract people who suit the brand and culture then actively pursue the talent that will create the type of value you want in your workforce.
Training and development practises
You create value with the people you bring into the company, but you maintain and grow that value with training and development. How do you provide consistent training and still address the diverse skillsets on each team?
The bare minimum should be consistent. Policy and procedure courses should be consistent for every employee. They set the expectations and provide the knowledge workers use to get the job done.
Fill the gaps. You may not be able to identify each need or talent, but you can equip the company with tools to address the diverse set of individuals you hired. Develop and make the resources available for managers and employees to address those skill gaps and further develop existing talent.
In a medium to large company, it may feel easier to administer training on an even scale, but a one-size-fits-all approach won’t grow your employees or the company.
Creating and implementing policy
You’ll probably never be able to create policy that caters to each individual, but you do have to account for the diversity in the needs and values of your employees while being consistent and fair.
This is done by focusing on the qualities that they share. Those common traits will include:
Industry. You can’t take an off-the-shelf policy. Your policy needs to reflect the way you do business and the industry in which you operate.
Culture. Policy should always be a reflection of the company. The policy you implement reflects your brand and determines the culture of the company.
Language. How you say it matters. You are hiring adults. Write policy like you’re talking to real people, real adults.
Policy has to be consistent or no one will follow it, but it also has to be crafted to recognise the diversity in your employees.
Create a framework that allows you to be consistent, but allows the flexibility to address individual needs.
Consistency and diversity in HR: a match made in heaven
An HR department is tasked with balancing consistency and diversity in the decisions that it makes. The balance between the two is vital to the company because it stimulates the productivity and innovation that will move the company forward and up.
With a strategy that recognises both consistency and diversity as tools, you have the opportunity as a department to create value in the company. And every time you make a decision that increases the value of your people and operations, you increase the value of the role your HR department plays.
(Hat tip to Steven Depolo for the photo)