HR leaders can learn a lot from other organizations of similar sizes. From talent attraction and management to corporate social responsibility, HR departments can be instrumental in leading their organizations to the forefront of their industries.

Here are four organizations with extremely innovative HR departments that are changing the way people think about human resources:

1. Ford

Famously depicted by the movie, "Made in Dagenham," Ford made some phenomenal industrial relations mistakes during the 1960's and 70's culminating in equal pay strikes by female machinists and the 1976 riot by workers laid off in the early hours of the morning.

But these days, Ford is recognized for innovation in HR through exceptional training opportunities and a highly disciplined culture, which is made possible through strong processes managed by data.

Their One Ford business model uses application programming interfaces (APIs) to manage talent and adapt to the changing global environment. They have developed an HR technology platform that will provide insights into their 60,000 plus global workforce and enable improved long term planning. This platform includes converted historical information and ensures sensitive data is in line with legislation across the world.

2. FedEx

FedEx has a long history of cutting-edge HR. It was one of the first organizations in the world to develop a formal HR policy that viewed employees as the direct reason the organizations would achieve growth and profitability. This policy is still in place today, People-Service-Profit, and essentially all management decisions stem from this foundation.

Staff have always been encouraged to come up with solutions, and their feedback is regularly requested. The Survey Feedback Action program is an annual survey where employees provide feedback on management policies. Once the survey is complete, staff and management meet to discuss the results and how to resolve any potential problems that have arisen.

3. Google

Consistently ranked as the best company to work for in the world, Google's mantra is all about the people. Their HR department, which they call People Operations, is focused on attracting, hiring, developing, and rewarding talented people. Their HR Technology and Operations team is continuously engineering innovative programs to assist with managing accurate employee data over their tenure as well other aspects of HR .

However, one of their truly innovative HR practices is the use of algorithms in their recruitment process. Dubbed "people analytics," Google uses data to measure the viability of prospective candidates. This process doesn't end when a person is hired either. The effectiveness of their staff is also monitored using the compiled data, ensuring the best people are always in the right position.

5. Netflix

The 127 Power Point slides that make up the Netflix culture deck have been viewed more than 5 million times. The ideas go against traditional HR practices but their talent management innovations have obviously been successful. They pioneered the concept of "unlimited" vacation time, and they abolished performance reviews.

Many say their approach is compelling because it's derived from common sense. Essentially they have five ideals that define the way they attract, retain and manage talent:

  1. Hire, reward and tolerate only fully formed adults. This forms the basis for taking time off and allows for their five-word expense policy, "Act in Neflix's best interests."
  2. Tell the truth about performance. With analytics and APIs in place there is little need for traditional performance improvement plans. Instead informal 360-degree reviews are used, asking people what their colleagues should stop, start or continue doing.
  3. Leaders create company culture. Lead by example and reward behavior that exceeds your goals.
  4. Managers create great teams. Recruiting the right people should be the top priority.
  5. Think like innovators and business people first. Netflix actively encourages their staff to embody and emulate innovative HR departments.

While not every decision and innovation that other organizations find useful will ultimately prove beneficial to yours, it's still valuable to take a look around. Even if you don't intend on keeping up with the Joneses, it will never hurt to take a minute to scope out that new ride parked in their driveway.

Tags: Human Resources innovation