Understanding the challenges

HR is often accused of not being strategic enough as many consider people-related activities to be a bit ‘soft and fluffy’ rather than ‘tough’ and business-focused like financial metrics or sales figures. However, this attitude is missing a trick because we know that there are many people-related metrics e.g. cost of acquisition, training spend, engagement or attitude surveys that can align ‘people stuff’ to business needs.

Being strategic and people-focused are not mutually exclusive terms, however, possibly because of the reactive nature of our roles we can be too busy ‘doing’ to take the time to look up at our alignment with the overall strategy. We need to start making the links between ‘people stuff’ and business outcomes and help others to do the same!Building an HR Strategy

5 Steps to building an HR Strategy

1. Spend time with the board/senior team to understand current challenges and future business drivers

Some challenges you may be facing are product issues or regulations. Identifying these as well as any key competitors or customer requirements will provide a starting point on how to address them.

2. Understand and agree on how these can be affected by people-related activities

Competitors may be affecting us with new products, stealing staff or shaking up the marketplace. We may consider training and education; talent management and retention or innovation camps or hubs to support us in addressing this challenge. Regulatory changes may require people systems, training and/or new policies.

3. Prioritise and focus on each challenge in turn before defining and evaluating potential people-related enablers or solutions

Some of the people-related solutions are short-term, reactive or tactical e.g. training or new policies. There is nothing wrong with this. However, the key here is to think ahead about how we can prevent further issues or gain a competitive advantage. This is when we become more strategic. So we may develop a management training programme that does more than meet current skill gaps; it aims to identify and fill future needs. One well thought out people solution may satisfy a number of business challenges.

4. Simplify into a ‘Strategy on a Page’

There is no point having all of this in your head, what you need to do is make this HR strategy and the links to the business overt, so others understand the value and support it. Some may call it a ‘strategy map’, I like to call it a ‘strategy on a page’. You can download examples here: Strategy on a page.

5. Implement, gather feedback and measure progress

You need to have expected measures of success defined for your people strategy so that you can evaluate and adjust your plan. Often people results do take longer to appear, so consider key milestones or indicators that would suggest that you are on the right track. This may include feedback from others, training scores or skills gaps closing. The measure should always be around the impact of your strategy, not whether the activity has taken place e.g. 200 people took part in the training.

How to evaluate the effectiveness of an HR Strategy

Having defined your HR Strategy, the key is to be able to monitor and tweak it over time. A good way of doing this is by building an HR Balanced Scorecard. You can read my blog on this subject here: How to build an HR Balanced Scorecard. Other helpful resources are also available below.

Download our Infographic: Building an HR/L&D Strategy

Slides: Demonstrating the strategic value of HR

Listen to the HR Uprising Podcast

Introducing the Podcast – HR Balanced Scorecard:


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