What are the current business goals for the area of the organisation you support?
At one time, when HR strategy was a relatively new concept, the key aim was for everyone in HR to understand the business and the business goals. As we have moved on, that has become part of the basics.
Now it is important to understand how HR interventions will help the business achieve those goals in the simplest, most effective way. And when you know what those goals are, a good practice is to implement a scanning process. This means looking at a particular goal in detail, and considering what it really means when you break it down and understand its implications. From there you will be better able to consider what HR interventions can help to achieve it.
So, for example, if one of the HR goals is cost efficiency, the natural way to assess this would be to analyse the head count and decide based on basic ratios. But what other types of initiative should you be thinking about? If costs have to be cut, are you thinking, for example, about how you keep your staff motivated? Are you sure who your talented people are? And, vitally, do you have a plan in place for how you maintain their motivation and engagement with the company if it's going through a process of downsizing?
If your company is experiencing job cuts, then you'll need to make sure you're taking a number of measures. Are you looking at what impact the way you implement the downsizing has on your employer brand? Are you considering the long-term impact and what skills might become scarce? For example, during previous downturns, many companies stopped recruiting graduates, and then regretted it 15 years later when they had a whole middle management layer with little talent in it. So you need to look beyond the initial action, and go deeper. While there may be a need for short-term reactions in light of the economy, don't let these cause you to lose sight of the long-term goals.
Where once your role was simply to know the goal, now you need to analyse and understand it from all angles. This can seem daunting, but ultimately it will have a strong impact on your strategy and allow you to run a tight ship, regardless of the situation.
By Jan Hills, partner, Orion Partners