Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Thinking Strategically

There's been a lot of talk about Strategic HR over the last several years. There has also been a lot of confusion. Let's see if we can clear things up a little. Strategic HR doesn't mean strategic planning. Strategic planning is important, but that's not what we are talking about when we say HR needs to act more strategically. It is also not about performing HR metrics although measurement is also very important. Strategic HR is about thinking and acting strategically in every decision and in every action that you make throughout the day.

How do you think and act strategically in every action? It's very simple. You understand your business and think and act in accordance with your company's business objectives. Human Resources is the people side of the business and people extend through all facets of running an organization. That is what makes HR so fascinating and also so critical. Every decision we make directly or indirectly affects the success (or failure) of the business. That's a lot of responsibility, isn't it?

"But I am acting strategically," you say, "I minimize risk to the company. I make sure we are in compliance. I recruit applicants using psychologist tested behavioral interviews. That's all strategic!" Well, yes and no. There certainly is a strategy element to all of this but it is strategy relative to the human resources world. To become fully strategic we need to become better at acting strategically relative to the business world.

In the business world,there is one overriding objective. That is to grow and maintain a successful business and to reach specifically identified performance goals. Every company - every President and CEO and Board of Directors - has different ideas and methods of how they intend to accomplish this. HR professionals need to be in on this. We need to live this. We need to focus every single day and make every single decision based on whether or not our actions will aid or hinder the overarching business goals.

Instead many of our actions serve only to hinder the overall business goals. I get frustrated when I hear HR people say things like, "My stupid CEO wants me to cancel the compliance training and replace it with sales training. Why doesn't he understand how important compliance is?" Maybe because if the company is not making enough sales there will be nothing to worry about complying with!

If we stop focusing only on HR Best Practices and begin to focus on Business Best Practices we will be once and for all truly acting strategically.

Beth C.
PS. One area that we sometimes fall down on is over emphasis on legal compliance to the detriment of other aspects of the business. If you are interested in this topic, you might enjoy an article I wrote recently called A Balanced Approach to Human Resources. It's in the library over at Nobscot's website.

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