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Successful Innovators Are Cross-Functional Specialists

It's crucial for your business to identify, grow and encourage your innovators through cross-functional career progression

22Aug

The time in which that the CFO only had finance experience or the CIO had solely an IT background has long been forgotten. Allowing C-level executives, senior and middle management, and employees to deliver innovative business solutions for their customers and collaborate effectively across the function to deliver true value for the overall business, has become increasingly important to remain competitive. 

Today’s CFO requires in-depth understanding and experience across sales & marketing, supply chain and in most organizations, technology, to deliver in our current business climate. The same can be said for the CIO, HR Executive and other senior and board-level executives in many multinationals. This requirement even applies to many middle management executives and their employees.

This means that people management, career progression, and skill assessment has changed dramatically for internal talent teams, recruiters, and managers in today’s organizations. With the recent focus on delivering innovation at all levels in the organization, allowing all organizational parts to deliver continuous value to 'their' customer, the focus on cross-functional specialists has emerged even faster.

How do you nurture, foster and grow cross-functional specialists in your organization to deliver innovative value?

Many European and US organizations have started adopting the cross-functional career progression model for more than a decade; however, this people management model is still relatively new in Australia. Even though I have come across a number of internal and external talent managers and recruiters (mostly from Europe and US) that are familiar with this people management model, most Australian businesses, top-managers and in-house recruitment and talent teams are still recruiting functional specialists that have solely functional career progression and expecting innovative change to 'happen' in their organization or with their client(s).

So, how do you break this downward spiral and transition towards fostering and nurturing cross-functional specialists that are able to deliver true innovative value to meet your organizational goals?

1. Use the right external recruitment expertise to break this functional recruitment approach and challenge your 'recruiter' to always provide an 'out-of-the-box' cross-functional candidate,

2. When recruiting, always include your cross-functional peers in the recruitment process to ensure that the candidate can show and provide cross-functional insights and innovative thinking,

3. Use your internal talent management process to identify top talent and create cross-functional career paths which encourage cross-functional innovative expertise,

4. Introduce cross-functional performance goals, metrics and teams to stimulate innovative behaviors,

5. Use cross-functional leaders to mentor future cross-functional specialist,

6. Use temporary assignments, internal secondments to provide internal opportunities across different departments, business units and organizational functions,

7. Introduce external cross-functional specialists to coach, guide and partner with your mid-management or senior managers to identify and support cross-functional career development within your organization

8. Introduce time to allow cross-functional teams to operate and develop, implement and execute innovative product or service delivery (operational innovation, customer innovation, technology innovation, etc.)

There are many ways to develop successful innovators, but it all starts with identifying internal or external talent and define flexible career paths. By using internal or external cross-functional leaders with integrated performance management tools, you’re able to mentor, coach, guide and explore cross-functional expertise and deliver innovative solutions.

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