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Defining Strategic HR

What does it mean to be "strategic" in HR? This was the question posed as I joined a panel at the recent state-wide SHRM meeting in Louisville, Ky. While opinions vary greatly on the topic, it seems clear that most HR leaders are looking for the silver bullet to finally answer this mystical question.

Let's be honest. It really doesn’t have to be mystical or mysterious at all. HR strategy is often unnecessarily over-complicated.

The premise is quite simple: Understand the business you are supporting!

By obtaining a strong knowledge of your business, you can then apply your strategic HR chops to solve a variety of key items. Learn about the different business units, revenue sources, growth targets, etc. Where is the business focusing its attention? Are there gaps in key strategic areas?

Don't start by trying to create HR specific efficiencies. While valuable, those are isolated to only your part of the business and may not align well with what the business really needs.

I mean, will anyone in the C suite really care if you've made your leave management process easier for the HR ops team, when a key business unit is underwater because of sales position openings?

We all need to be business professionals first and foremost……we just happen to be experts in HR too! If that is the lens you look through, and if that is your approach and focus, then you can more clearly align your HR service delivery to the areas of the business that most adds value.

A couple of examples in my recent post as the HR exec for a data and technology firm in Louisville, Ky.

As a company, we were growing….and fast! In fact, we'd been moving at a 20-30% revenue growth clip annually. In addition, we acquired 6 companies over the course of 18 months! So, as the HR lead, I quickly realized that my role was threefold:

  • Scale the leadership team and the HR team for the growth

  • Build a repeatable model for HR and people related due diligence

  • Create a world class onboarding and assimilation experience to all the newly acquired employees

Each of these particular initiatives led to success in our targeted strategy. It was visible to my colleagues in the C-suite and engaged many of the other key leaders in the organization. As you can imagine, this led to some important political capital…….the kind of political capital that can be leveraged for even more success down the road.

The bottom line is to avoid taking the easy path of just HR solutions, and to get out of your comfort zone and into the business itself.

I think you'll find that HR success and business success are entirely synonymous

Office buildings looking up
Strategic HR for the win
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