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Innovations in HR management

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Several new innovative practices in HR are improving the people agenda, impacting culture and employee wellbeing. What exactly are they?

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Recruitment chatbots

We’re currently very much in a candidate-driven marketplace so there’s a real need for HR to focus on mirroring the consumer world in the candidate experience, says Jo Taylor from HR consultancy Let’s Talk Talent, “A recent study by Workopolis showed 43% of candidates still do not hear back from company after one touchpoint.” One real innovation in this space is the use of AI in recruitment. Recruitment chatbots mimic human conversational abilities during the recruiting process. Chatbots are helping recruiters focus on other administrative tasks, asking screening questions, answering FAQs and streamlining the process.

Employee engagement software

Software such as We thrive enables leaders to send monthly surveys to their people, addressing a range of subjects including wellbeing, stress, teamwork, capability and confidence at work. Managers then receive an analysis of the results and specific actions they can take to improve engagement. “This type of software is making feedback easier to give and more transparent for the business,” says Taylor.

Employee recognition company OCTanner, has just announced its Culture Cloud, a suite of apps and services designed to work together to help people thrive at work. In place of multiple tools from different vendors, Culture Cloud provides one modular suite where employee experience apps are integrated in the employee’s workstream. The Culture Cloud uses smart HR AI technology and includes employee surveys, communications, elearning, analytics, global store, and data privacy and security.

Tools like this are representative of a trend towards single providers in HR. Says Robert Ordever, OC Tanner’s MD, “Organisational culture is under the spotlight more than ever before, which is why it’s important for businesses to choose just one specialist partner for their culture and wellbeing needs.” It helps if this partner is able to demonstrate that they are far more than just a technology provider. “After all,” says Tanner, “creating and nurturing a great workplace culture is about so much more than tools. These days, businesses seek to work with partners that can provide informed advice and combine and integrate various tools to meet their specific strategic needs, not simply to supply software. It’s no longer acceptable for companies that claim to be experts in cultural tools to simply know about technology. First and foremost, they must be culture experts.”


Gamification is creeping into all elements of HR, from the interview process to learning and development. Companies such as Accenture and Deloitte are already devotees, using tools to set lifelike workplace challenges in the recruitment stage and beyond. Elsewhere, Google apparently gives its staff an allowance for each work trip. If the allowance isn’t spent, they can add the remaining balance to their wage or give it to charity. The company reported 100% compliance within six months using this gamification technique.

Peer-to-peer recognition

Innovations in the peer-to-peer recognition arena are allowing employees to praise each other. With Thanks box, for example, employees can give special thanks, nominate others for awards and much more. “Reward and recognition tools like this can help employees feel valued and respected by the rest of their team and drive wider engagement for your business,” says Taylor.

Edgier corporate networking

Times have moved on since corporate networking comprised a round of golf with the company directors and HR is realising that it needs to go beyond the expected tropes to make an impact. Alan and Juliet Barratt, co-founders of sports nutrition startup Grenade, “The ethos of our brand is bold, strong, empowering and packs a punch and our networking events are no exception,” says Barratt, “This year, we took people from across our staff and supply chain to a tank driving day that pushed people’s boundaries, and fit perfectly with our challenging brand ethos. We teased out the invites in a way that sparked interest and saw huge attendance from our partners around the world, let alone the UK. We took all these people out for a day of networking that genuinely involved bonding with people, and that created a friendly atmosphere that takes our professional network out of the office – and creates longer-term relationships.”

Mental health coaching

“One big innovation is the introduction of mental health coaching,” says Birgit Lundgren, head of clinical services at the mental health and employee wellbeing consultancy Validium, “Instead of waiting for people to become sick with stress and anxiety issues (the number one cause of unproductive time, absence and performance issues) some innovative employers are now pioneering ways of preventing these issues from arising in the first place, with bespoke mental health coaching.” Mental health coaching with Validium involves assessing an employee’s ‘resilience batteries’ (the six aspects of our life we need to keep positively charged to have good mental health) and getting clinical experts to provide bespoke one-to-one coaching on how to get the worst area back up to speed before it starts to impact on their health. “For example,” says Lundgren, “someone might consider themselves to be in good health, but if they are experiencing prolonged feelings of isolation and anxiety their ’social battery’ will be running low and putting their health at greater risk than if they were smoking 15 cigarettes a day. They might be aware that they are lacking social interaction with others and feeling quite lonely, but struggling to make the changes needed to address this issue by themselves.” A mental health coach can help them to create specific goals, such as re-establishing an old friendship or making two new local friends, and assess what’s helping or hindering them from achieving this to prevent costly health issues (mental and physical) from arising further down the line.”

A holistic view of employees

HR professionals are taking a much more holistic view of employees, says Susy Roberts from Hunter Roberts Consulting. “We’re working with a large global management consultancy who have created a health and wellbeing strategy for the whole year. Every month is a different theme, whether it’s couch to 5k or 1000 steps at lunch. They have talks in the office about heart health, they offer staff up to three days a year volunteering or even taking time out to visit relatives.” Crucially, says Roberts, this company has stopped rewarding long hours. “In fact they actively encourage staff to take three weeks off even if they’re busy,” she says. In general, Roberts says we’re seeing a lot more strategy in wellbeing, we’re seeing more confidential helplines being promoted and we’re seeing the data come through about how it impacts productivity.”


Personalisation is an increasing priority in the consumer world and HR professionals are recognising the benefits to staff satisfaction too. Boutique agency Bain and Gray specialises in executive talent. Says co-founder Emily Bain, “In April this year, we went a step further with our personalised perks drive, by launching an innovative benefits scheme for our candidates called the ‘The Card’ – an exclusive members-only loyalty scheme that rewards our highest-earning executive talent with a range of partner offers and innovations. Essentially, The Card is a hand-picked selection of relevant offers for our PAs who are commanding a salary of more than £30,000 per annum. With over 3,000 top PAs and EAs on our books, that means a third have been invited to join the loyalty scheme.”

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