5 ways HR leaders can turn their innovative ideas into action

Many current and former HR leaders agree that it’s common to return from a conference with notebooks or digital files filled with ideas for transforming and improving their organization or department; the challenge lies in putting these ideas into action once they return to work.

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“I was an HR practitioner, so I know what it’s like to go to conferences and leave thinking, ‘I have no idea how I’m going to implement this because I work for some of the most difficult leadership in the world—or some of the greatest but there’s no budget,'” says Mary Faulkner, principal, of HR advisory firm Inflexion Advisors (IA).

“I understand what it’s like to come to these conferences and really struggle to figure out how to move forward.”

But this is not impossible, according to Faulkner and her colleague, Kimberly Carroll, managing principal at IA. They presented From Frustration to Focus: Activating your EPIC Insights at the recent Elevate People, Ignite Change (EPIC) conference in Las Vegas.

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How HR leaders can put conference ideas into action

There are several ways to turn innovative ideas scribbled in conference notebooks or tapped into notes apps into viable projects and programs, the IA experts say.

Tie ideas to business objectives

When reviewing conference notes, look for ideas that strongly align with leadership’s business objectives.

“Typically, what we see are a lot of HR visions that are not always driven by the business objectives,” Carroll says. “Look at the pillars of the business objectives and drive HR’s vision toward that.”

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Before seeking C-suite support for an idea, HR leaders should find the link between existing key performance indicators and their suggestions. For example, if you want to launch a new internal mobility program to boost retention, connect the program and its promise of retention to the organization’s KPI of saving money each year in recruiting and onboarding costs.

“One of the biggest weapons in your arsenal is to tie the idea to business objectives,” Faulkner says.

De-emphasize the benefits to HR

When presenting an idea, adopt the language your business leaders use and consider leadership’s attitude toward HR, Faulkner says.

“One client purposefully left out anything that said it would make it easier for HR to do their job. They didn’t want leadership to think they were just proposing the idea to benefit themselves,” Faulkner says. “Be thinking about these things.”

Set guiding principles

Plans change frequently during launch or transformation. Acknowledge that by creating guidelines to help navigate the change, Carroll says. Guiding principles can help everyone stay on the same path.

For example, an IA client set guidelines prohibiting the use of spreadsheets when making decisions. However, as the organization evaluated a new system, its selection committee considered using a spreadsheet to help make the selection—until a team member reminded the group to follow the guidelines of no spreadsheets.

Prioritize plans

Setting priorities is critical when building a roadmap to launch new ideas, Faulkner says.

“Prioritize what’s most important to you and in what order,” she says. “Also, identify the interdependencies among your actions because there will be some things you cannot do until you have solved the other issue.”

For example, HR can ask managers to spend more time training their employees, but Faulkner says this will require adding additional time to a manager’s schedule.

Find quick wins

As a new program or project is built, it is essential to capture quick wins along the way, these experts advise.

“You want to show incremental progress throughout so that you’re going to be able to go forward,” Faulkner says.

EPIC conference for HR leaders
Kimberly Carroll, left, and Mary Faulkner, both analysts with IA, share their insights at EPIC 2024.

Dawn Kawamoto, Human Resource Executive
Dawn Kawamoto
Dawn Kawamoto is HR Editor of Human Resource Executive. She is an award-winning journalist who has covered technology business news for such publications as CNET and has covered the HR and careers industry for such organizations as Dice and Built In prior to joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected] and below on social media.