11 Innovative HR Initiatives Examples to Inspire You

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11 Innovative HR Initiatives Examples to Inspire You

HR teams all over the world work hard to make sure that employees are equipped and empowered to help their company achieve its objectives. As such, Human Resources departments have to come up not only with a solid HR strategy but also with innovative HR initiatives to support this. Let’s have a look at 11 HR initiatives examples to inspire you in your work! 


  1. Progression: The only way isn’t necessarily up
  2. Text-to-Apply
  3. Introducing platforms for collaborative work
  4. Hybrid workplace design
  5. HR coaching
  6. Personalized, on-the-go learning through technology
  7. Developing future-proof HR skills
  8. VR for bias and soft skills training
  9. Resilience training
  10. Start thinking about HR as a product
  11. Employee recognition and appreciation programs

1. Progression: The only way isn’t necessarily up

Our first example comes from a company called Whereby. At Whereby, they have developed a progression framework that’s based on the principle that the only path for progression isn’t just management.

Employees can, therefore, be on different tracks:

  • A technical track, which is a very common thing for engineers;
  • A managerial track, for employees who aspire to become managers;
  • An entrepreneurial track, for people with more of a product mindset that get their energy from, for instance, creating efficiencies, automating things, or making a team more effective.   

If somebody started out on, let’s say, a managerial track but discovers along the way that being a manager isn’t for them, they can change track.

As a result, people can be promoted or progress based on their actual strengths. A no-brainer if you ask us because as Jessica Hayes, COO at Whereby puts it: “We don’t just need 117 managers, we actually need people with different perspectives and different strengths to work together.”

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We had Jessica on our podcast All About HR earlier this year. If you want to hear more about Whereby’s progression framework, you can check out the episode here.

2. Text-to-apply

This one is not as much an innovative HR initiative example as it is a missed opportunity. The good old text message as a way to interact with candidates remains massively underutilized. The same thing goes for offering text-to-apply options for candidates. 

For those of you that aren’t familiar with the concept, here’s a brief explanation from GoHire, a company that helps recruiters attract, engage, and recruit across multiple messaging platforms – including text recruiting:

“Text to apply provides your company with a Shortcode or Inbound Text phone number that walks job-seekers through a text-to-hire job application, where candidates enter their contact information, answer pre-screening job questions, and can even schedule an interview. 

When a job seeker completes the brief questions, we email you the candidate’s information and with our text recruiting software, you can start texting back and forth with candidates.” 

Text-to-apply examples

According to a recent Jobvite study, only 5% of Fortune 500 companies provide people with the possibility to send a text to apply for a job. The same survey showed that among candidates who received a text message from a recruiter, there was a 98% read rate

To top things off, 69% of respondents said that they preferred text communication over email or phone calls. So…perhaps it’s time to turn this missed opportunity into an innovative HR initiative for 2022! 

3. Introducing platforms for collaborative work

The role of the office has dramatically changed over the last two years. On the one hand, this has led to some positive developments; 77% of people have seen their productivity rise during the pandemic and almost one-third of employees have been able to do more work in less time. 

The drawback is that remote work has somewhat reduced people’s networks and made organizations more siloed. Remote workers also have fewer ad-hoc conversations with colleagues than those who are on-site. Unsurprisingly, these things have a negative impact on collaboration and innovation.

That’s why in 2022, HR will need to become more deliberate about and involved in helping organizations reshape the way collaboration, co-creation, and innovation happen. At AIHR, we call this ‘Collaboration by design’ and it’s one of the 11 HR trends we’ve identified for the near future in the world of work. 

There are various ways for HR practitioners to achieve this and one of them is leveraging digital platforms to connect employees asynchronously so that they can work together anytime, anywhere. 

In other words: by introducing platforms for collaborative work.  

There is a whole host of team collaboration software out there, ranging from communication, to project and task management, to creation tools. Examples include Slack, Miro, Trello, Google docs, Whereby, and frankly, so many other companies. 

4. Hybrid workplace design

As we just mentioned, offices aren’t exactly what they used to be anymore. Employees all over the world are returning to the office, often a lot less than before, and many of them are using the office space differently too. 

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Some of the most common changes we’ve seen so far:

  • When employees come into the office, it’s to collaborate with colleagues.
  • Meetings with clients or partners are another reason for people to come in.
  • Surprisingly, the opposite is true too; employees also want to come to the office to do work that requires a deep focus. 

A hybrid office, a place that’s designed to support both in-person collaboration and meetings as well as remote work, gives employees the flexibility that they desire.

The options when it comes to the actual design are endless. They will, of course, depend on the size of the space and other factors. Here are some elements to think of in any case:

  • The budget available. 
  • The technology. Check if your company’s Wifi, laptops, cloud systems, video conferencing tools and other tools employees use are flexible and efficient enough or if they need an upgrade.
  • Heating, lighting, and ventilation needs.
  • Policy change. Shifting from a full-time in-office model to a hybrid way of working involves a change in existing work policies and, by extension, requires various official policy changes. 

But perhaps the most important thing is to ask your people what they want. Do they want to come back to the office and if so, how many days a week? What would their ideal workspace look like? Asking these and more questions will help you get a good understanding of what your employees desire.

For more information about how to go about this kind of (big) change, you can also read our article on activity-based working as it has quite a few similarities with the hybrid office model.

Innovative HR Initiatives Examples

5. HR Coaching

This is probably one of our favorite innovative HR practices even though it’s a bit sad that we’re only calling it innovative in 2022. The past two years have been tough on (almost) everyone, but probably even more on HR practitioners. 

On top of dealing with their own fears, uncertainties, and whatnot, they also had to deal with those of everybody else in the company. And while we don’t stop talking about mental health support, coaching, and mentoring for employees, the question that presents itself is: who is taking care of HR?  

One way to do this is by offering every HR professional in your organization the option to work with an external – or internal – HR Coach as an integral part of their Comp and Ben package. Someone that helps them build their resilience and agility while providing a safe space for them to learn in, grow and thrive. Or just pour their HR heart out every now and then.   

It’s time for HR to start taking care of HR. Continuously. Because being in HR isn’t for the fainthearted and it’s not getting any easier in 2022. 

6. Personalized, on-the-go learning through technology

Often, too often perhaps, when we talk about employee learning and development the examples used are around knowledge workers. But what about the millions of people working in, for instance, retail, hospitality, construction, and manufacturing?

That’s why the next innovative HR initiative example on our list comes from a large American retail company named Kroger. The largest grocery retailer in the US joined forces with employee training firm Axonify to launch a program called Fresh Start.

The goal behind this initiative is to “deliver a more personalized, digital experience for associates through purposeful, bite-sized training that enables them to learn and grow in a fun and engaging way.”

The innovative element here lies in the personalized approach. While we’ve been talking about personalized experiences for some time already, much too often still, companies have a one-size-fits-all approach to learning which just doesn’t cut it in a changing environment.

7. Developing future-proof HR skills

If there’s one innovative HR practice that should be on every HR department’s list, it’s their own upskilling. At AIHR, we have identified four core competencies HR professionals need to become future-ready. These are:

However, only 1 in 5 HR practitioners currently has sufficient knowledge in each of these competencies. That means that if they truly want to bring value to their organization, they need to keep learning.

And how do leading HR departments facilitate their members’ upskilling, for example, in data literacy? They help their employees:

  • Partner with data teams to find relevant data
  • Strengthen their Excel skills
  • Give them opportunities to share data in team meetings

HR coaching we mention above is also an excellent approach to learning. Another effective way to upskill your team is self-paced online training, which helps HR professionals gain relevant skills in an interactive, engaging way.

8. VR for bias and soft skills training

It’s interesting to see the different, innovative applications of Virtual Reality (VR) in the world of work. For this article, there are two examples in particular that we’d like to mention: 

According to a 2020 PwC study, VR, when used at scale, can be significantly more cost-effective than traditional soft skills training options. Employees completed VR programs up to four times faster than in-person training and 1.5 times faster than e-learning programs. The most important reason for this was the fact that the immersive VR experience made it easier for learners to stay focused.

In the case of VR for bias training, an additional benefit lies in the fact that people can learn from their mistakes without actively harming co-workers since there aren’t any real people present. 

9. Resilience training

This is another innovative HR initiative example that we’re excited about in 2022. We hear a lot about mental health and what companies are doing around that for their employees. 

But in a way, that feels a bit too much like ‘reacting’ to something instead of being proactive. “Our people are exhausted and perhaps on the edge of burnout, let’s introduce a mental health day.” How amazing would it be if we could create a workplace where people wouldn’t even get to that stage?!

While this might sound a tad idealistic, offering employees resilience training could be a great first step in that direction. 

So, resilience training, what exactly are we talking about here? For example, meQuilibrium, a company offering custom resilience solutions to companies, uses workforce data to identify individual and organizational pain points. Then, they offer people a personalized way to develop, train, and measure their resilience – and be more successful in their job. 

Resilience training can focus on areas such as managing emotions, coping with work-related stress, improving communication skills, overcoming interpersonal challenges, remaining calm, improving sleep, and many other things.

10. Start thinking about HR as a product

The shift away from HR focused on projects towards HR focused on products is another one of our trends for 2022 as well as an innovative HR initiative example. It represents a fundamental change in how HR operates. 

Traditionally, HR functioned with a project mindset; clear timelines, set deliverables, a predefined set of resources, and aimed at being run efficiently.

A product, however, is ongoing. It doesn’t necessarily have an end and aims to provide value as (additional) resources are being allocated as impact increases. 

This shift in mindset will increase the quality of HR service delivery. It will also enable HR to better build the capabilities that help improve the bottom line of the business. 

This kind of shift requires an upgrade on the side of HR professionals though. They will need to better understand the company’s internal customers (the employees), and their changing habits and preferences.

They’ll also need to step up their game in delivering a more personalized and unique employee experience.

Project vs. Product Mindset in HR

11. Employee recognition and appreciation programs

While the topic itself, employee recognition and appreciation, might not be new or innovative, the ways in which you can shape these programs are. And in the era of the Great Resignation, companies can use all the help they can get to keep their people happy.

Employee- and peer recognition leads to:

  • better employee relationships,
  • lasting engagement,
  • increased trust,
  • productivity and performance,
  • and tons of other positive things. 

There are literally heaps of examples of what employee recognition can look like from post-it notes and custom emojis (we have a few adorable ones here at AIHR), to physical awards or fully digitized platforms and everything in between. You can truly let your creativity run free in this space.

Here’s an example of custom value emojis we at AIHR use on Slack.

On a final note   

Before you decide to implement a cool new initiative, you need to understand, as always, how it’s going to help you achieve your goals. Consider what your priorities are and the budget you have. That way, you can make sure that the innovative HR initiatives you launch can truly make an impact.

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