Innovation is on trend at the moment, and as a result companies are having to reinvent themselves to survive and remain competitive. Individuals are increasingly looking to work for courageous organisations that place value on creativity and authenticity. Few people have made the link between innovation and management. Yet it’s in managerial practices that the real (r)evolution lies!
A brief history of management
Management is a fairly recent innovation in the history of companies. Originally, only productivity counted: to increase production you had to employ more people and to cut costs you had to dismiss them. In the 1980s, as competition intensified and jobs diversified, personnel managers started to think about their employees’ motivation and performance.
This led to the birth of departments responsible for human resources and employee relations. Research into management began to show that the human factor was important in employees’ commitment to their work. The purely economic view of human work was supplanted by a more social view of it. This had a major impact on team management.
Change: easier to talk about than to achieve
Productivity and return on investment are still used as indicators of company performance. But how can deeply rooted managerial traditions be changed? How can managers innovate? Here are two examples of managerial innovation to try to combine fulfilment and performance.
Thierry Gaillard, CEO of Mars Chocolat, organised a meeting lasting around half an hour every six weeks entitled ‘ça se discute’ (it’s up for debate), a reference to a popular French television programme. The aim of the meeting was to break the ice with new recruits and to answer any questions put forward by employees.
The latest innovation in fashion, the liberated company?
The CEO of Zappos, the US leader in online footwear sales, wanted to create a friendly and close atmosphere with his teams. To achieve this, he used a computer application that showed him a photo and a short description of one of his 1500 employees when he logged on to his computer each morning. He wanted to get to know his employees, even in a rapidly expanding company.
We should also remember that Tony Hsieh is equally well known for removing his middle management in early 2015. These are just a few examples among many proving that it’s possible to reinvent the way you manage your employees and that it can have an influence on long-term performance.
The HR manager: a key player in social innovation
All companies go through management changes. Challenging current practices can be tricky because some managers find it difficult to accept the perceived lessening of their authority. The HR manager therefore has to create the right conditions for cultural change while reassuring managers and executives enough for them to find the courage, perseverance and patience to see the change through and contribute to the company’s survival while protecting the well-being of its employees. But isn’t that the main purpose of HR managers?
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