HR Administration

Workforce Game Changers Call for More Attention to Innovation

By Ed Frauenheim

Jan. 17, 2013

Who better to drop some science about managing for innovation than innovators in the people management field? To round out our exploration of innovation in the workforce, we turned to our Game Changers. These are the individuals, 40 and under, who we recognized last month as showing leadership and innovation in the realm of workforce management.

Below are questions we asked our Game Changers, and some of their provocative answers. Shruthi Bopaiah is practice lead, internal communications, at Infosys; Danielle Dorter is director of human resources, ID Media Inc.; Sean Fahey is founder of VidCruiter; and Kelly Timpane is director of human resources and corporate services, Progeny Systems Corp.

Workforce: What’s the single most important factor in fostering a culture of innovation? Why?

Sean Fahey: Systems Thinking. The components of what Peter Senge mentions in his book: having a learning organization, which uses systems thinking to enhance innovation. This means looking at all the parts of a system that can be used in completing a task, not only the ones given to us. Some components of a system are not always clear with linear thinking. But system thinking forces people to look at the whole picture.

Danielle Dorter: Empower employees at all levels to have ownership and accountability without fear of blame or ridicule. You cannot force innovation, and the organization has to be OK with some [calculated] risk-taking. Innovation, and showcasing/rewarding innovative thinking, has to start from the top and trickle throughout the organization.

Workforce: Give an example of innovation in your organization and how people management played a role.

Sean Fahey: We get a lot of ideas by looking at other industries and applying concepts that typically would not be seen in HR to an HR industry product. For example, many of the concepts on which VidCruiter is built are based from Toyota and other manufacturing principles.

Kelly Timpane: When I first joined my current company, one of the things that really stood out to me was the company culture. Right in the company’s mission statement, among the list of core values is: ‘Have Fun.’ Employees have certain company-owned items available to them for personal use—like popcorn machines, moon bounces, slushy machines, power washers, tables and chairs, and canopies/tents. Employees can borrow these items for personal use over a weekend for a child’s birthday party, or whatever other use they may have. It gives the employees a great sense of this being one big ‘family,’ and helps increase retention by building loyalty.

Workforce: How important is a company culture of innovation to younger [Gen X and millennial] workers?

Shruthi Bopaiah: The most important aspect of culture: It is not the values individuals bring to the organization that count, but the values the organization brings to the individual. Younger workers, especially Gen Y, thrive on innovation. It has proven to be one of their biggest sources of motivation. They love to challenge the status quo and find creative ways to work. An organization that has a culture which supports innovation will successfully retain their younger workers.

Kelly Timpane: Innovation is very important to today’s workforce. In prior generations, it was expected that workers would stay with the same company for their entire career. Now it is the norm for younger workers to hop from one company to another, especially in their early career, looking for that ‘next best thing.’ From a recruiting and talent acquisition standpoint, if you want your company to stand out and be the one the workers are jumping to—not jumping from—you need to foster a culture of innovation, creativity and employee buy-in to the company and its mission and values as well as its products and services.

Ed Frauenheim is Workforce’s senior editor. Comment below or email

Ed Frauenheim is a former Associate Editorial Director at Human Capital Media and currently works as Senior Director of Content at Great Place to Work. He is a co-author of A Great Place to Work For All.

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