IRI Think Tank

Resource Type
Publish Date
Innovation Research Interchange
Leading Innovation Organizations, Talent Management
Associated Event

Discussion Summary

What measures are organizations implementing to recruit and retain top talent?
Recruiting from universities
  • Even as an organization’s recruiting focus shifts, it should maintain a relationship with key universities and professors to ensure a good pipeline in the future. 
  • A way to maintain a good relationship with universities is to get technical staff to help recruit from their alma mater.  They are often willing to go.  One caveat is that they can be biased toward recruiting from their universities, overlooking other strong candidates. 
  • Relationships with universities should be a two way street.  Staff members should talk to professors and offer to give presentations or sponsor activities.
Working with recruiters
  • Technical staff need to be proactive in describing exactly what they need to recruiters, while recognizing that a desire to learn is a critical asset. 
  • A strong relationship between technical staff and HR will help to ensure that a list of key skills to keep and develop is maintained and recruiters know where to focus.
Rotational programs
  • To run smoothly, most rotational programs need at least one FTE managing them. 
  • Rotational programs need top down support, particularly financial support.  The business units should not have to scrape together the money for each rotation.  This can lead to resentment of the program and reluctance to participate.
  • Each rotation should be reviewed to see if it worked for the company as a whole, the participants, and the business unit. 
  • Running rotational programs during co-ops can be a way of getting some of the benefits of the programs, while keeping costs down.
  • A robust internship program is a very powerful tool for recruiting early career professionals.  Early career professionals often see internships as two way interviews.
Succession planning 
  • People retiring often have an amalgamation of many jobs they’ve had over the years.  Instead of just replacing the person, her/his key responsibilities can be parceled out around the organization.  This must be done in a thoughtful and strategic way over a long period to ensure that the recipients are not overloaded.
Project-based roles
  • To keep early career hires engaged and exciting, some companies are turning to project-based roles – like an internal gig economy.  This allows for more flexibility and gets teams thinking differently.
Attracting mid-career professionals
  • Some companies have found success in targeting people who have had career disruptions (stay at home parents, people who have recently moved).  Flexibility also tends to be attractive to mid-career hires.
  • It is very important to show mid-career hires a path to leadership.
Retaining early career professionals
  • Allowing early career professionals to attend conferences and training helps them to feel valued and that the company is encouraging them to grow. 
  • Early career professionals also need to be made aware of the options and opportunities that are available to them within the company.  Sometimes a simple conversation can help with retention. 
How are organizations working to create a culture of innovation?
  • Companies have seen success with creativity training that is developed with both technical staff and consultants. 
  • Technical staff can often benefit from training to help them communicate the value of their projects.
External sources
  • Industry associations help staff access new opportunities, participate in joint projects, and get fresh perspectives.
  • Customers (and other business units) should be consulted for input.
Engaging the whole organization
  • Internal innovation events can be an effective tool.  R&D can show experiments, storyboards, and testing to the whole organization.  Frequency and expectations need to be managed so that this doesn’t become overly burdensome.
  • Innovation CoEs staffed by all the different divisions can be good for cross-pollination.
Culture changes
  • A senior leadership that is open about its failures can go a long way to promoting a learning culture. 
Process changes
  • Agile can help get stakeholders (e.g. marketing) involved early in the project and forces increased customer engagement. 
  • Internal campaigns for ideation, especially on a customer need, can be an effective tool.  Ideas generated in these campaigns need to have a clear owner once the idea is brought forward and feedback needs to be given to people whose ideas weren’t selected. 
    • The process should be clearly laid out so that people who contributed to the idea don’t get upset if someone else takes the project forward and gets kudos for it.  People also need to be reassured that if they contribute an idea, they won’t end up overloaded. 
Staff ‘pet projects’
  • Some companies are using flex time:  10 – 15% of a staff member’s time is dedicated to a pet project that doesn’t need to be part of the core business.  Promising projects can even be awarded seed money. 
  • One company introduced a program that did internal voting on pet projects.  Projects are presented – one slide per project.  Votes are taken into account, but aren’t used in the decision-making process, but it helps to build awareness of projects and how to identify good ideas.