Sunday, May 23, 2010

10 Lessons Learned in the Quest to Become Strategic in HR

I am rereading the book "Roadmap to Strategic HR: Turning Great Ideas into a Business Reality" by Ralph Christensen.  I believe I have read this book about 3 times.  I always learn something new every time I revisit the book.  As I continue to work with HR Departments on strategy and structure,  I have found that no two situations are the same.  I find myself going back to tried and true principles and theory as my foundation when transforming HR departments from transactional to strategic.

Here are some of my lessons I have learned over the last several years working with HR Departments that chose to go through a dramatic change by moving to a strategic "Business Partner" approach to HR:

1) Buy in from the top is absolutely REQUIRED without C-Level support, do not move forward.

2) Be sure to understand your company's definition of strategic as that means different things to different people.

3) You can't be strategic if HR is  not intimately involved with the organizational strategy.

4) You HAVE to do the basics right.  If you can't get people paid correctly then you lose credibility which is necessary to participate in strategic discussions.  

5) Don't start with the HR organizational chart.  Don't start moving boxes around until you understand what HR services your customers need and want based on strategy.

6) Make sure line management is involved in the redesign process.  Managing talent is everyone's job, so get line management involved with HR programs, policies, procedures, etc.  (Christensen discusses this at length in his book)

7) Make sure when leadership says they are ready for change, that they REALLY are ready for change.  Change is hard, it takes time, and a lot of energy.  So many times, I hear leaders SAY they want change, but their ACTIONS demonstrate they are really more comfortable with the status quo.



8) MEASURE what matters to your organization.  It's hard to be strategic unless you know how the strategy is working and which areas need a course correction.

9) Research what other companies are doing.  Don't try to replicate another organization's strategy or structure, but understand the lessons and successes.

10) It's hard for HR to be strategic in a vacuum.  HR needs to be in the line of site with a C-Level person.  I think it is critical for the top HR person to report preferably to the CEO.  To be able to hear what keeps the CEO up at night, from the horse's mouth is invaluable.

What are some of your own lessons?  Please share your experiences by commenting below.

4 comments:

Eric Brinson, SPHR said...

A lesson that I have learned? You cannot be strategic or begin to influence the direction of the organization while you are clamoring for strategic influence. To your point, you need to master the blocking and tackling of tactical HR before you can get to be a strategic player. If you do this effectively, and start acting strategically, you will be asked to play on that team by the other team members. This invitation will be subtle at first, but your sphere of influence will grow over time. Clamoring for attention will be seen as egotistical self-celebration, and will actually hinder your efforts to be strategic.

Actions speak louder than words. Once you prove your value and think strategically, you will get there.

Your points are great reminders of the mindset one must have in order to have influence. Thank you for your insight!

Best Regards,
Eric Brinson, SPHR

Cathy Missildine-Martin, SPHR said...

Thanks Eric:

Great points. I do believe that influence happens over time and it is a great way to build your credibility in the strategic department. I think what is important from your comments is that you have to understand what works in your own culture. Thanks again, you always have such great insight!

Andy Spence said...

Hi Cathy, great article which was chosen as one of the Top 10 HR Transformation articles in June from HR Transformer Blog.

Cathy Missildine-Martin, SPHR said...

Thanks Andy, I really appreciate it!! Thanls for reading.