“Find me an HR person who is truly strategic, and I will eat my hat.” That was an off-the-cuff comment from the managing director of a training company who, quite frankly, should know what he’s talking about.
He was accompanied by his strategic marketing director who, when asked what made the role strategic, replied that it was about planning, thinking ahead, having a long-term vision – things that marketing should be doing anyway.
While it’s not just HR that’s keen to be perceived as being much more strategic, it’s undeniable that strategy has become the buzzword in HR circles. Suddenly, everyone wants to be strategic.
Does that mean that no-one was strategic before the word strategy came into fashion? Do all HR professionals truly understand what being strategic means? And how do you become more strategic?
We’ve aimed to answer some of these questions in our main feature this week where we outline five key ways for HR to make the successful transition from operational to strategic HR, and make its mark as a valuable business partner.
There are also some practical lessons to be learned from the US, which is several years ahead of the UK in strategic HR terms, and where it’s accepted that HR makes a huge contribution to a company’s competitive advantage.
What this boils down to is being brave in standing up to the chief executive or finance director, and in getting them to understand the link between HR initiatives and financial outcomes.
Crucially, say the Americans, HR should stop worrying about whether it’s got a seat on the board and whether it is perceived as strategic. To quote a famous marketing phrase, just do it.