Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Innovation and Employee Exchange Programs

Former P&G logoImage via Wikipedia
Procter & Gamble, Google Swap Employees For Development, Knowledge Transfer

Laurie Ruettimann of Punk Rock HR recently posted on the question of whether it is possible to be innovative in Human Resources. I think the jury is still out on the ultimate answer to that question.

My personal opinion is that innovation within the HR function often follows the so-called "Japanese" model of taking good ideas and working very hard to make incremental improvements on them to make them better.

I rarely see a true Sunburst idea in HR that will light up the sky.

One trend I have been noticing of late is the concept of sharing or swapping employees. Earlier this month, I posted on an employee swapping program recently implemented at the ad agency Iris. This program involved trading employees between offices in London and New York to give the employees a different perspective on the company and their business by living in a different culture.

Today I noticed several reports of a story that originated in the Wall Street Journal about employees being swapped between companies to spur innovation.

According to AP reports, Google and Procter & Gamble are now swapping employees as well.

The two industry leaders are paring up to learn from each other and to
develop customer service.

Procter & Gamble Co. says it has done job swaps with Google Inc.,
and Google employees have been at P&G's Cincinnati headquarters helping
with training.

P&G spokeswoman Allison Yang said Wednesday that
the company wants to reach more consumers who are increasingly online. She
said that digital is "definitely a focus" for the company.

She said P&G will continue looking at opportunities to work with
Google, based in Mountain View, Calif. A message for comment was left with

The Wall Street Journal reported in Wednesday's editions that
discussions on an employee swap began last year between P&G and Google
executives. The swaps began in January. (source)

This represents a substantial change in approach at both companies which do not often share information so openly. It is also a way to expose employees to new ideas and new cultures while exploring mutual incremental process improvements. I think that is a developing Best Practice that could be utilized by any organization to spur learning, employee development and innovation.

At Procter & Gamble Co., the corporate culture is so rigid,
employees jokingly call themselves "Proctoids." In contrast, Google Inc.
staffers are urged to wander the halls on company-provided scooters and
brainstorm on public whiteboards.

Now, this odd couple thinks they have something to gain
from one another -- so they've started swapping employees. So far, about
two-dozen staffers from the two companies have spent weeks dipping into each
other's staff training programs and sitting in on meetings where business plans
get hammered out. The initiative has drawn little notice. Previously, neither
company had granted this kind of access to outsiders. (

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