4 Effective, Innovative HR Practices You Can Adopt Today

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When it comes to HR and talent management, things are always changing.

And changing trends buffet the small business and startup worlds particularly hard.

From new ways to attract the best talent and new talent management software choices to ways to make the most of your company’s perks and benefit offerings, every new thing seems to be billed as the best “innovation” in HR.

So how can you tell which ideas really are the best, which are even innovative at all, and which are just recycled old or existing ideas?

graphic representing four innovative HR practices

The real winners can be identified by how much of an impact they are actually having.

Can companies implementing these HR practices point to real results? Is there real science behind them?

Below, we’ll break down four innovative HR practices that actually hold some water.

4 innovative HR practices your small business should consider implementing

1. Employees as customers

What it is: It started with brand ambassadors and the idea that employees should love working at your company enough to promote it in a way that makes people want to do business with you. That idea has grown, morphing into the notion that employee happiness is just as vital as customer or client happiness.

Who’s using it: When Airbnb made a concentrated effort to improve employee satisfaction by appointing a global head of employee experience in 2015, the results were impressive. It shot to the top of Glassdoor’s “50 Best Places to Work” list. Any company that makes an effort to appreciate and validate employees, while prioritizing their experience, is going to foster employees who love their workplace.

Why it’s effective: Employee satisfaction is a huge part of employee retention. Employees who don’t feel supported, trusted, and like they’re part of a meaningful team aren’t going to hang around.

Employee happiness is also an important part of how well your company does. An employee who has just been yelled at isn’t going to put the company’s best face forward to a client two minutes later. Communicating how valuable employees are makes your team appreciate you and your company’s work environment, so that they can be true believers when selling your company to the outside world.

2. Hackathons

What it is: Originally started by computer programmers who needed to tackle big problems, Hackathons are multi-day collaborative sessions during which a team of employees gets together and tries to tackle a problem, learn something new, or create something useful.

Who’s using it: AddThis, a company that has been doing Hackathons for years, enthusiastically promotes the idea on their company blog. The company says that Hackathons foster team loyalty, encourage risk-taking, and lead to real product and office developments that improve quality of life for everyone in the company.

Why it’s effective: You want a staff that works together. You want a creative team that thinks outside the box. You want a team dedicated to improving your company from the inside out. But who has the time or know-how to foster any of that?

Hackathons provide dedicated time to facilitate these things, and more! Hosting a special event dedicated to creativity and problem-solving won’t cost you much more than catering, but the event may become an integral part of your company culture.

3. Mandatory PTO

What it is: You’ve likely heard of unlimited paid time off, which has become popular at a lot of tech and startup workplaces. Weirdly enough, having unlimited PTO can actually decrease the amount of time employees take off. In contrast, the mandatory PTO approach helps companies maintain a more rested workforce with a lower risk of burnout.

Who’s using it: SimpliFlying started an initiative that required employees to take one week off for every seven weeks worked. After some trial and error, it increased that latter number to eight weeks of work, and dove in head first.

The company went pretty hardcore with the policy, docking pay for the vacation week if an employee responded to any work-related messages. The results were almost purely positive, leading to happier employees who came up with better ideas and worked better together.

Why it’s effective: When you require employees to actually use their PTO, a lot of great things happen. Employee satisfaction and happiness rates go up, employees are more creative, and productivity increases. Employees feel more rested, less guilty about taking time away, and end up doing better work.

4. High Fives

What it is: Obviously, we all know what this is. Truly, though: Using high fives (yes, real, actual high fives) as a method of staff bonding is no joke. Quick moments of praise during a workday can help your team members feel more bonded to one another and increase your company wins.

Implementing this process can be as simple as making team high fives a part of daily life when staff members leave for the day or incorporating a “high five line” into employee orientation.

Who’s using it: WP Engine has made it tradition to, at the end of a new employee’s orientation, line up current employees to high five the new team members.

With this simple, minute-long tradition, new employees feel more welcome and make a brief personal connection with everyone else in the office.

Why it’s effective: Physical touch is essential to helping humans bond and function as a team, and high fives can give an extra boost of connection between coworkers without being too invasive. Studies show that high fives even help teams function better together and behave more selflessly. Check out this video about high fives and the NBA:

If your team experienced wins on par with those experienced by the NBA because of one small change, what could you accomplish?

What innovative HR practices do you have?

Have you held a Hackathon or considered mandatory PTO? Do you have your own innovative HR tricks up your sleeve? Tell me about them in the comments below, or tweet me @CapterraHalden.

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About the Author


Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen is a former Capterra analyst.


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