What does Strategic mean in HR?
There’s a lot of misunderstandings about what it means to be strategic in Human Resources. Having a plan doesn’t necessarily make you strategic. Talking about the future doesn’t make you strategic. Being proactive doesn’t even make your strategic.
The mark of a truly strategic HR leader or team, is when you move from giving the business what they want and instead give them what they need. Strategic HR is about ensuring the organization has the Human Capital it needs to achieve it’s goals and objectives.
Recently, I heard an HR leader talk about a strategic planning process they were planning to implement. Their process began with asking their business leaders questions about their expectations of HR services (i.e. If you have a training need, how to you expect HR to assist you in meeting that need?). It’s not bad to ask about expectations, but there’s nothing strategic about this type of questioning. This type of questioning assumes that your business leaders have the expertise to identify training needs and are knowledgeable about the range of options for meeting those needs? It’s asking them what they want in a situation where they can’t possible know. Isn’t this supposed to be HR’s area of expertise? Their job is to run their business, our job is to provide them with the human resources they need to make it happen.
To be strategic means that instead of asking the business about what they want from HR, you have to ask them questions about what they plan to accomplish in their business, what obstacles they see in the market, and what they see as the impact to how their workforce will need to adapt and perform. Armed with this information, our role in HR is to then provide these business leaders with a plan for how to ensure their workforce is ready to meet the needs of the business. This may not always look like what they want, but if it’s rooted in what they need, they will start to value HR as a strategic partner.
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