The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

Thoughts on HR Strategy

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We’d all like to believe that we think strategically. But the reality suggests that nobody else believes that about us. Take a couple of cases. First, if a large acquisition is happening in your organization, how much does HR collaborate in the decision making process? Is HR simply there to evaluate the workforce, or does HR have real input into the deal and whether it’s going to happen or not? Take another case. Rather than an acquisition, the company is going to enter a new market and create product. Does HR get a call saying, “We need more people” or does HR get the call from the CEO and COO saying “here’s what we’re doing and why we think this will catapult the company’s market share. Help me understand what kind of people we need and what our talent strategy is around that.”

We’d like to think we’re strategic, but I’m not sure we are. Our HR strategies of “employee engagement” and “talent management” may not be strategies, but examples of how to execute on a strategy. However, we may not have defined what we’re executing on yet.

Let’s go back to the new product example. So the CEO sits down with the SVP, HR and has the conversation. What does the SVP, HR do? Immediately go out and tell the recruiters to hire people? Or does s/he instead get to work helping with projections on what the total resources will be needed to produce and support the new product? Clearly the HR strategy will shift with the organizational strategy, and new tactics will need to be put in place to execute on staffing, workforce planning, talent management processes. The core HR functions in compensation and benefits will also be impacted in the long term and all of this requires clear and thoughtful planning before the approach to execution is finally determined.

The 5 year plan that we put together last year is not HR strategy. It’s how we execute on the strategy. The real strategy is understanding that HR can perform at ever increasing levels against the organizational strategy. Happily, I get to sit around and help people determine what they are doing in the strategy area, but it frustrates me to no end how few people really get the message at the end of the day. They began the day expecting a 5 year plan, and once they got that, the rest was message unheard. What’s wrong with HR???

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One response to “Thoughts on HR Strategy”

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  2. Jon Ingham Avatar

    I agree. I think HR can be strategic, but most ‘strategies’ are simply plans that detail what processes HR is going to implement or improve. A strategy will either focus on business needs (business process, customer, financial results) and explain how people management can play a significant part in meeting these needs. Or how individual / organisational capability will be improved, enabling new or more stretching business goals to be set. I think this last point is important. After all, many people management strategies are of necessity longer-term than their business equivalents (a major talent management programme may take 10 years to take effect).