Aligning HR objectives to the business

A
Scottish shipbuilders proves it is possible to link the work of the HR
department to broader corporate objectives. Alex Blyth discovers how it was done

For
many years, HR departments were kept at arm’s length by many organisations.
While in recent years enlightened organisations have tried to integrate HR
departments with the rest of the business, many have discovered that it is more
difficult than it seems. This was not the case with BAE Systems.

The
naval ships business of BAE Systems operates shipyards on the Clyde and design
centre in Filton, and is responsible for the delivery of surface ship
capability to the Royal Navy. It is also the UK’s leading supplier of warships
and associated technology to international markets.

The
business uses what it calls an Integrated Business Plan (IBP) to generate its
strategy, focus, direction and deliverables to meet its contractual, financial
and business objectives. As part of the process each business area and function
develops its own plan for delivery. All of these plans then get integrated to
ensure linkage, consistency and clear measurement.

The
first stage of developing the IBP was for the organisation to agree how to
achieve competitive advantage in its marketplace. It then identified the
organisational culture required to achieve that competitive advantage. Having
agreed the deliverables required to achieve this goal, the organisation agreed
what to fix, what to focus on and what to grow, or to put it another way, what
it needed to do more of, what it need to do less of and what it had to start
doing.

In
all, it was an involved eight-step process. HR director for operations, Stewart
Davie, describes how his team was involved. “Whereas in the past we might have
been reacting to a business plan, during this process we were defining our HR
plan alongside the development of the broader business plan. So, we clarified
how HR adds value and links directly to the goals of the broader business. It
also provided a framework for identifying and developing the HR team’s
development needs,” he says.

Senior
HR leaders, the entire HR team and key line managers were all involved in the
HR department’s planning process. “Initially, the HR team was a little
sceptical about the assessment part of the process,” recalls Davie. “However,
by communicating clearly and by linking assessment to personal development
planning, we have effectively raised the capability within the HR team as a
whole.”

In
short, Davie believes that there have been three benefits and very little cost.
“We have aligned HR objectives to those of the business. The HR team now has more
business-focused personal objectives. The capability of HR team increased. The
cost of implementing and using the eight-step model was negligible as we
delivered it as part our normal activities,” he says.

Although
the eight-step model used by BAE Systems Naval Ships may not be transferable
across businesses, the principle of using an exhaustive process to align HR
objectives with broader business objectives surely is. Davie has certainly been
convinced. “In the past, we used to develop HR deliverables that we convinced
ourselves were business-focused. This process ensures that they are, by
inextricably linking the HR plan to the business plan.”

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