Break the HR Boxes and Drive Innovation and Growth

In April, I had the privilege of sponsoring and speaking at DisruptHR in the San Francisco Bay Area.  DisruptHR calls out to the rebellious spirit of the CEOs and transformative minds in human resources and technology who want to shake things up – not only in human resources, but also in how the 21st century workforce is led, and what we define as the workplace.

Many of my fellow speakers gave intriguing talks about how artificial intelligence and digital technology will disrupt how we recruit, define work, and maximize the use of the digital and gig economy. Others spoke on new ways of thinking about harnessing anger at work and measuring employee engagement.

When I spoke, I said to the human resources leaders and CEOs it is time to “Break the Boxes and Bridge the Pieces.”  If you can learn to break the boxes that limit HR, you can transform HR from an administrative function to a driving force for transformation, technology application, and innovation. All will drive profitable growth.

What are the boxes you need break? The first box contains recruiting, payroll administration, benefits design and administration, performance management, and compensation.  All of these functions are critical to the operations of the enterprise.

When they are done well, they become efficient systems and processes that seem effortless to both leaders and employees. They create the integrated talent strategies that drive your brand and recruiting. They are the textual model for a dynamic employee experience, from onboarding to skills sharpening, inspiring, managing innovation, and achieving a higher purpose.

What did I mean by “break them?” Specifically, do them extraordinarily well so that they function like clockwork, and they are continuously improving.  Seventeen years into the 21st century, we have cloud-based digital technology for many of the administrative functions in human resources. We no longer need armies of administrators and system analysts. H R’s time and talents can be used for more transformational work.

When administrative HR functions are performed well, enabled by today’s cloud-based digital technology, leaders can be free to “bridge the pieces.” They can focus on talent and organizational development approaches that empower new business models, improve strategy execution, necessary change, and innovation – the drivers of growth.

What’s the next box to break? The belief that HR does not have predictive models, based on empirical research, to help overcome the organization’s obstacles.  Whether your organization is challenged with implementing new strategies, managing change, increasing innovation, engaging your workforce, or improving the outcome of expensive acquisitions and mergers, human resources has predictive models that can lead to success. Never before have we had better, highly researched models to help unlock the mysteries of human motivation, behavior, innovation and organizational performance. The problem is, too few HR leaders and CEOs understand this!

What other boxes can we break?

  1. Hierarchy and control. You can’t inspire innovation and the growth it drives by limiting the ability of workers to raise their hands and suggest a new idea. Organizations do need hierarchy and control to deliver on their commitments and provide results to stakeholders. If hierarchy and control are overplayed, however, an organization will be stifled within its status quo. The status quo is a failing business strategy! How does HR break this box? Don’t just advocate for flatter organizations and employee engagement. Advocate for what the empirical research shows is more powerful: creating cultures of innovation. Interested in learning how to create a culture of innovation within your organization? Click here.
  2. The 20th Century definition of how we work. The 9-5 office schedule is hopelessly out-of-date. Based on my research, personal experience, and the empirical research of others, about half of the workforce today does not have to be in the office 9-5, three or four days a week. It all depends on how, where and when your employees need to do their work. Workers tied to technology, labs and information that they can only access in the office, must be there.  Others can do their work at home or at the customers’ sites two to four days a week. They can come into the office for meetings so that they can maintain alignment with the organization’s culture and goals. They also need to be present for in-depth decision-making meetings. Interested in learning more about changing the definition of how we work? Click
  3. The belief that only the IT department has experts in digital technology. Every organization today is a digital company. Every executive needs to be a digital technology expert, especially in HR. I am not advocating that human resources leaders learn to write code, rather that they understand the following: Which digital solutions increase team collaboration and innovation? Can artificial intelligence improve our ability to screen applicants and objectively improve our next leaders? What are the key criteria when considering a payroll and human resources information systems upgrade? What alternatives provide the best ROI for my company? I have a question for the H R leaders reading this blog: In addition to reading labor law updates, are you readying TechCrunch at least weekly?
  4. The belief that new technology replaces jobs rather than making most workers more effective. A hot debate rages on this topic. The U.S. currently has a labor shortage. The successful application of new technologies may alleviate some of this shortage, but only if there is an effective integration of technology and workers, and employees receive the training they need to use new technologies. HR should move into this void. HR has the necessary skillsets, with its expertise in change management, employee training, and performance management.

Are you ready to break out of the traditional boxes of human resources, help your organization bridge the pieces and drive growth? Join the discussion.

Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting and is a Managing Partner of InnovationOne. He consults on innovation, global talent management, developing agile leaders and teams, and other strategic initiatives. Questions? Please e-mail Victor at or visit For innovation visit

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