Inherently, organizational structure may not appear to be an exciting concept. However, an HBR post discussing how established organizations just can’t seem to keep pace with start-ups in the innovation arena, has caught my attention. It seems clear that the innovation dilemma has a fundamental relationship with the traditional elements of organizational structure, and how those elements develop and solidify over time. One key system which affects the potential to innovate: How organizations secure needed talent.
Structure and maturation
As an organization matures, many systems within the traditional structure can become rigid. Communication channels become formalized – salary levels are set. On one hand, organizations become a safer and more secure place for employees. But, unwanted by-products such as inflexibility come along with this territory. Ultimately this affects how talent is sourced, and can limit the ability of a maturing organization to effectively evolve and innovate.
Ideally, the talent equation begins with leadership and the work at hand, where leaders have the responsibility of translating vision into specific goals and tasks. These tasks in turn, require a set of needed talent elements for completion. Often, the necessity to forecast these talent requirements can become a looming challenge for hiring managers – and the entire HR function – which supports that search.
The simple truth is that mining talent through traditional channels can take too much time — where a mature organization may not be nimble enough to find needed talent quickly to meet the demands key challenges. But, the clock is ticking, if they hope to remain competitive. It’s time vs. talent — and options which provide a more direct route to source and onboard needed talent are required.
Gaining the right perspective is a great place for an organization to begin. In a previous post, I discussed a prediction by Gartner, concerning the application of work swarming within organizations. This is a concept which implies that the structure of an organization must flex, to allow needed talent to gather quickly (and organically) to tackle projects. The process should allow not only talent from within the organization to gather, but from the broader external environment as well.
Breaking down walls
Extending the “virtual walls” of an organization can greatly expand the talent horizon. One interesting option is to leverage contacts within the industry, or related industries who might possess relevant knowledge concerning a project or subject. One view which has been posed is to collaborate with suppliers to source talent and solve key problems.
Another method of sourcing talent would be to build or access a talent community, a method which capitalizes on the advantages of social media and employee networks when searching for needed skill sets. In this way, an organization develops an extended talent network which can be tapped as needed. Members of the community can be quite varied, and can include potential contributors, such as freelancers or those working in related settings.
Another avenue would be to utilize crowdsourcing techniques to staff specific projects. In this way, organizations bypass portions of the traditional HR hierarchy to enable them to address talent issues in real-time. When a problem or challenge exists, it is placed in an open forum, and staffed. Of course, there are issues that the organization would have address to maximize this process, but the potential seems apparent. (Platforms such as InnoCentive, have been already been successful in facilitating specific open innovation challenges for mature organizations.)
The overall goal of applying these methods is for the organization to have the capability of retaining that innovative “edge” – long beyond the start-up phase. In a sense, slowing down the solidification of a counter productive elements which deter talent from reaching an organization in a timely manner. The process would have to be perfected. Here are few issues that come to mind:
- What types of projects or challenges would be more appropriate for these solutions?
- How do we effectively track KSA’s? (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities)
- What specific legal steps must an organization take to make this happen?
- Overall, how will HR help to guide the process?
The future of innovation within mature organizations is certainly dependent on finding needed talent. Hopefully, with collective thought we can improve opportunities for more established organizations to find that talent more readily, and retain their potential to innovate and excel.