Are you a strategic thinker?

As people
issues move up the business agenda, the status of HR has been raised – being called
on to implement policies in line with company aims. So, can you think
strategically? Do our multiple-choice test to find out

It’s Friday, it’s late and you’re about to put on your coat when the boss calls
you in to chew over the fat on some of the latest developments in your sector.
Do you:

Smile wanly, sit down and let him get on with it
b) Enthusiastically join him – you’ve been reading up on your opposition’s
widgets and it’s a great opportunity to get inside your boss’s head
c) Politely but firmly decline – it’s people you’re interested in, most of all
the people living in your home

2) There’s a crisis meeting, cuts are going to have to be made and your
training budget is firmly in the chief executive’s sights. Do you:

Whimper and hold your head in your hands
b) Try to turn the conversation around to other parts of the business
c) Only decide which way to argue once you’ve assessed what is best for the
wider organisation

3) Your boss has been given Jack Welch’s latest book for her birthday and
wants to know what you think about his views on people management. Do you:

Agree wholeheartedly while desperately trying to remember what they are
b) Break into a cold sweat that she’s about to get rid of a whole tier of
c) See it as an opportunity to talk around some of the latest people issues
affecting businesses today and how your organisation might benefit

Midway through the weekly board meeting, your boss turns to you and wants to
know what size and kind of workforce he is going to need in five years’ time.
Do you:

Outline projections and predictions you have been working on for some time
b) Bluff madly – how can you possibly be expected to think that far ahead when
you’ve got too much on your plate already?
c) Shrug your shoulders – what makes them think you’re going to be staying that
long anyway?

You’ve been invited to an industry bash but have already worked late every
night this week. Do you:

Go anyway – it will be a great opportunity for meeting other HR types who could
be important sources of advice and guidance in the future
b) Go anyway – where else can you drink too much free champagne and wake up on
the floor of someone else’s hotel room?
c) Make your excuses and go home to get a good night’s sleep

You’re driving home after putting the final touches to your "big
picture" presentation for HR when your boss calls to say your US owner is
about to go public with plans to cut thousands of jobs worldwide. Do you:

Swerve into the ditch
b) Swear, then mentally start regrouping and reassessing what it means for the
c) Feel relieved – perhaps there will be a good redundancy package in it for

strategic thinker’s answers


is vital to be able to prove you are a commercial manager first and foremost,
whose specific expertise happens to be HR. You should be interested in and able
to comment on business issues just as much as you are able to give the lead on
HR issues


an awareness of the business is key to showing you understand how the HR agenda
is aligned to the wider organisation. The HR function should always complement
the business strategy, however painful it may seem in the short term


HR directors often become coaches or mentors to the chief executive and other
board members, and are perceived as someone in whom others can confide. To do
this you will need to be seen as neutral and make unemotional decisions that
enhance teamwork


to a crystal ball is vital to being a successful HR director. Part of the
challenge of thinking strategically is anticipating what will be the future
people challenges of the business. The board won’t want to know about the
day-to-day operations of your function – unless it’s not working – so let your
team take care of the minutiae

a and c

directors who are well connected outside of their organisation often have the
edge in terms of market knowledge, best practice and so on. Of course, if your
marriage is on the rocks or you’re making a vital presentation to the board the
next morning, "c" might still be the best option


the unpredictable. HR strategies must be flexible.

Courtenay HR

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