How to Create an Innovative Workforce

Topic(s): business strategy, creativity, selection
Publication: Human Resource Management Review (2012)
Article: Hiring an innovative workforce: A necessary yet uniquely challenging endeavor
Authors: S.T. Hunter, L. Cushenbery, T. Friedrich
Reviewed by: Neil Morelli

Apple. Google. Facebook. Some companies are synonymous with innovation—and their success demonstrates how important innovation is in today’s fast-changing marketplace. In a recent review article (Hunter, Cushenberry, & Friedrich, 2012), innovation is defined as successfully implemented creativity that is both novel and useful.


Because the most innovative organizations are often the most successful, selecting and managing talent with a penchant for innovation can be a huge competitive advantage. In light of this, the authors described the characteristics that best predict creativity and innovation, and the selection processes and performance criteria used to build an innovative workforce.

Remember, innovation isn’t just creativity; it’s also the successful implementation of that creativity. Thus, building the most innovative workforce means first selecting individuals that have the greatest creative potential (those with the right knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics; KSAOs), then ensuring that these employees have the appropriate climate, rewards, recognition, leadership, team processes, and resources.

To summarize the characteristics of a creative person, the authors found that creative employees should have domain specific and broad knowledge bases—this allows them to bring two previously unrelated concepts together. They also need creative processing skills (i.e., identifying and evaluating potential solutions to problems) coupled with inherent abilities such as intelligence, seeing more than one solution, relating remote concepts, and seeing how a previous problem is related to the current one. Creative people are also open to new experiences, driven, and ambitious.


If these are examples of people with creative potential, how should organizations go about selecting them? The authors argued that self-reports may be useful for capturing the more stable dispositions such as personality and motivation, whereas biodata, assessment centers, situational judgment tests, and interviews can predict creative performance by capturing a range of innovation-related KSAOs. Speaking of creative performance, the authors discussed some of the challenges with thinking about creativity as a form of employee performance, such as the need to use coworkers to assess performance for a particular employee. Indeed, building a creative workforce is a complicated but profitable process, which will undoubtedly require some creativity of its own.


Hunter, S.T., Cushenbery, L., & Friedrich, T. (2012). Hiring an innovative workforce: A necessary yet uniquely challenging endeavor. Human Resource Management Review, 22(4), 303-322.

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