Need to know: HR strategy

Summarise the HR strategy and how it links to the business strategy. How does the HR strategy differ in each of the two main competitors?

All good HR people have an ‘elevator speech’ repertoire of three or four sentences they use to describe to others in their organisation what HR is doing to help the business achieve its strategy. Obviously, you also need a detailed knowledge of the HR strategy and how that aligns with the business strategy, but to be truly strategic and credible in your role, you need to be able to talk about it easily and confidently.

HR often gets hung up on a written strategy, but what is actually more important is to have an understanding and clarity of thinking about the direction of the business, and how that influences your priorities and proposals. All of this will help you to run through in your mind, every time someone suggests something or asks for something, what business goal it is helping or how it fits with the overall business strategy.

There is a view held by some HR people that HR should not have a strategy in and of itself, but instead should facilitate the owning of an overall people strategy for the business. Whichever view you take, the important thing is to be able to articulate what HR is doing, and how it helps the business achieve its goals.

Your head of HR will be able to talk you through the overall HR strategy and how that aligns with the overall business strategy, but you can also consider how the wider strategy might need to be applied in your specific role or part of the business. If you are working with a specific business unit, you might need to tailor the implementation to the needs of that business unit within the wider HR strategy.

In addition to understanding both your strategy and that of your business, knowing how the strategy differs from that of your competitors will help you to understand your sector and business better. This can help you to determine how you execute your own strategy in light of pressures on your sector or industry events.

To discover your competitors’ strategies, it is helpful to network with your peers in those organisations. You will also be able to interpret some of their strategy from their actions and from their public statements. Do they go about recruiting or rewarding people in a different way? If so, why? Ask people you have recruited from your competitors what the priorities were within that organisation. Ask yourself if there is anything you can draw from that information and apply to the way that you work.

Jan Hills, director, HR with Guts

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