As an Innovation SPOC for a Tata group company, I often find support functions reluctant to work in area of innovation, they often ask what innovation can Finance/Accounts or HR function do.
Support functions, esp. HR do lot of innovative things, in fact, in today’s era if they don’t innovate, their existence will get questioned.
I will give some examples from Tata Group.
Second Career Internship Program for women was started by Tata group HR, to help those women who had taken break in their career for children, personal problems etc. and wanted to resume career after break. The program allows women to work in Tata group companies for 6 months, this helps them in getting back into corporate life. Timings and days of work are kept flexible keeping their needs in mind.
This innovation won Tata Group HR Golden Peacock Award for Innovation in 2011.
Founder of Tata Group, Jamshetji Tata started various innovative HR schemes for workers like provident fund, gratuity and limited working hours, when such schemes were unheard of in industrial world of 19th century.
Another innovation in area of leadership was done by Mahatma Gandhi. In early days of Congress, the moderate (under Gopal Krishna Gokhle) and extremist factions (under Lokmanya Tilak) clashed on issues of social reforms and independence. Moderates felt that social reforms should precede demand for independence while extremist felt opposite. Mahatma Gandhi, who considered Gopal Krishna Gokhle as his “Guru” or teacher, felt that both can happen simultaneously. He came with an innovative model of passive resistance, based on truth and nonviolence. The freedom movement demanded independence and at the same time it carried out social reforms by encouraging participation of women and removal of untouchability. His model brought two neglected segments of society – women and untouchables, into mainstream of society.
Louis Kelso, an economist, came up with concept of Employee Stock Option Program, in 1956, which helped employees of closely held newspaper chain (Peninsula Newspapers) to buy out its retiring owners. ESOP was major innovation in area of compensation.
Another innovation was attempted when Kamani Tubes, a sick company, was brought by its workers and they decided to run the company.