About 3 years ago, I attended an HR Conference where three top Chief Human Resource Officers were invited to sit on a panel and share their version of “3 Steps to Becoming a Strategic HR Professional”. The insights from the sessions were perception expanding and career transforming for me. Below are the summaries of my take away from each of the panellists.
Panellist 1’s Three Steps:
- Build strong relationships with key stakeholders (senior executives, line managers and customers of the business) and work with them to achieve business results.
- Identify specific gaps that are negatively impacting the business (obstacles to forward progress) and recommend actions to eliminate them.
- Look holistically at the business and translate business objectives into specific, measurable actions that need to be carried out to achieve business results.
Panellist 2’s Three Steps:
- Becoming a strategic HR professional entails really understanding the business and acting like a business executive: going on sales calls, attending strategic business meetings, sitting in call centers to listen to customers’ needs, visiting and working out of branches so as to serve customers and learn more about them, attending leadership meetings and contributing insights.
- Collaborate with key business stakeholders to develop plans to support their business goals – both short and long term and then help them execute their plans.
- Deploy the people plans and measure progress/results against the plan.
Panellist 3’s Three Steps:
- Find out your organization’s Corporate Strategy and goals for this year (co-create the Corporate Strategy and goals with Executives where possible) and develop the HR plan that will enable execution.
- Help the organization identify the capabilities required to execute the corporate strategies and then help build, buy, or borrow the capabilities.
- Speak the language of the business and ensure strong alignment between the corporate strategy and HR agenda.
What are your own 3 steps? How do you help your organisation acquire the right to win in the market place? How are you contributing to the success of your organisation?
Dear HR Professionals, today’s business environment demands a state-of the-art HR agenda that links HR practices to the strategy of the business. CEOs and top business leaders no longer have a pressing need for HR generalists. They need a strategic HR professional. They need HR to ask the question:
What is the strategic goal of the business for this year, and the next 5 years and the next 10 years? And after answering these questions, they need HR to understand its role in executing these strategic goals, and then make it happen.
To cut your professional teeth on strategic HRM this year, start by aligning all your HR agendas and processes with these four goals:
Goal 1: Supporting the execution of your firm’s strategy. The degree to which your HR activities facilitate the financial goals of your firm, is the degree to which you will be considered valuable. To effectively provide support for the execution of your organisation’s business strategy, you need to first deeply understand your organisation’s strategic objectives. For example, if the 2018 strategic objective of your firm is to increase profit by re-enforcing the marketing team, your role as HR becomes obvious and you must be able to ask and answer questions like:
- How many people do we need?
- Where do we get them?
- What training or support do they require to be effective?
- How do we measure and reward desired behaviours and results?
Goal 2. Establishing a Strategy-focused Culture. Culture change agendas are never easy, and most die at the embryonic stage. To succeed in establishing a strategy-focused culture in your firm, it is critical that you do more than simply crafting a fanciful cultural statement.
After deciding on the strategic culture (organisational practices and group behaviour) that must be put in place to guarantee the execution of your firm’s business objectives, go the extra mile to identify and promote those specific values and behaviours that will foster the culture. You will also need to identify the cultural characteristics that your firm needs to reduce or eliminate to make room for the new culture.
Let’s assume your organisation decides that becoming a market leader by continuous innovation is its strategic objective for the next five years. And management comes up with a corresponding cultural statement that reads: ‘Our goal is to create a culture of innovation—one that both values and rewards risk,’ it is your task as a strategic HR practitioner to identify the obstacles to creativity and risk taking and remove them.
In this scenario, HR must ensure that barriers such as excessive bureaucratic infrastructures, too many layers of approval, and supervisors who are threatened by their subordinates’ initiatives are removed. Anything short of this will prove fatal to the culture change agenda.
In the same vein, you must create systems that nourish the culture change agenda. Create a system that publicly acknowledges role models of creativity, make sure that upward communication channels are available through which key breakthrough ideas are passed to senior management without delay
Goal 3. Ensuring the continuous availability of the technical knowledge and skills that are necessary for achieving the success of the business strategy.
When Learning and Development interventions are aligned with the strategic agenda of a firm, there’s bound to be a commensurate Return on Investment.
Therefore, as a key HR professional, you must ensure that all your Learning and Development programmes are designed purposefully to develop the internal capacity required to match with the external market realities and execute the firm’s strategy. An implication of this is that you will need to be highly knowledgeable about the marketplace – what skills are required to help your firm succeed.
Before commencing any Learning and Development program, be sure to have addressed these three questions:
- What specific skills and technical knowledge do our employees need to execute the firm’s strategy?
- How many employees need to acquire these skills/know-how?
- Are these skills/ technical capabilities best acquired through training, through recruitment or through borrowing (in the form of consultants and other external vendors)?
Goal 4. Analyse your organisation for areas of potential strategy pitfalls and institute change management where necessary.
It is difficult for an unhealthy organization to actualize its strategic objective, no matter how well designed the strategy may be. Therefore, it is expedient that you provide strategic support for your organization by examining it for potential strategy pitfalls.
To effectively analyze the ‘health’ of your firm, your competency as a consultant will prove useful (refer to the article on Hat 3).
After you have successfully collected the evidence required for justifying a transformation agenda, ensure that the following seven critical factors are in place before investing your energy in the change management program:
- Ensure that you have the support of key executives.
- Create a shared understanding of the need for change in both management and employees.
- Ensure that a clearly articulated vision of the end-state of change is in place.
- Elicit the commitment of key stakeholders to the change vision.
- Leverage the management and HR systems that support and drive the change.
- Define insightful measurements by which the progress of change can be monitored.
- Establish learning loops through which change efforts may ensure ongoing improvement and progress.
The four goals presented here are the basics of strategic HRM, and they are a definite springboard from which you can launch out in 2018 as a strategic HR professional.
I encourage you to thoroughly digest the information presented here and draw up your personal action map for 2018. After doing this, it is prudent that you have a discussion with your CEO about your plans to be more strategic in your HR agenda.
To enable you focus on performing these critical tasks, you will definitely need to free up your time. Therefore, I recommend that you delegate or outsource selected mundane operational tasks.
This is wishing you your best HR career year ever!