Strategic HR 101

Kyle Lagunas

Human resources’ focus has evolved beyond administrative functions in the last decade and has taken a more strategic role. Things like payroll administration and policy policing are no longer the core focus, as HR has begun strategically growing and developing talent in the workforce—what analysts are calling strategic HR. Advancements in HR technology have largely made this transition possible for organizations large and small. Before business leaders can leverage it to develop a more valuable workforce, however, it is important to understand what, exactly, strategic HR is.

In broadening the scope beyond their traditional functions, HR professionals are taking on new roles as organizational advocates, talent coaches and workforce consultants. This hybrid of HR functionality oversees three core strategic HR functions:

  • Talent Management focuses on acquiring, on-boarding, and developing talent through employees’ entire life-cycles within organizations.
  • Learning Management focuses on managing the process of developing hard and soft skills, monitoring certifications, and rolling out training courses.
  • Workforce Management focuses on processes managers rely on to manage daily staffing tasks such as time tracking and shift scheduling so they can focus on big picture operational needs.

The adoption of web-based HR software has been a key driver in the development of strategic HR. Solutions focused on best practices involve both managers and employees in important processes like on-boarding and performance reviews. By automating administrative HR functions, organizations can take a strategic perspective on big-picture practices such as hiring better people and improving talent effectiveness.

Richard Vosburgh, VP of Talent & Organizational Effectiveness and Chief Talent Development Officer at KEMET Electronics, advocates the value of both the "essential and the transformational" functions of HR. Organizations that have mastered both the essential and transformational have seen a major impact on their organizational effectiveness. In 2007, a study conducted by The Hackett Group, HR Best Practices, found that organizations with "World Class HR" lowered labor costs, increased HR efficiency and drastically reduced turnover.

When taking the first steps towards implementing strategic HR, Vosburgh suggests leveraging people resources in your organization with what he calls "dual-hatting projects."

For example:

  • Assign your HR manager to develop an internal branding and company culture campaign.
  • Work closely with the controller to develop realistic and informed hiring and growth strategies.
  • Ask your hiring managers create a section in the application process specifically suited to their division.

Organizations that are serious about transitioning into strategic HR should be prepared for some growing pains. Safeguard yourself and your organization, and take time to put in your due diligence now. If you do your homework, research best practices and compare software to find what best fits your unique organization, you can ease this transition. Establishing an effective, strategic HR framework that can grow with your organization over time is no small task, but it's undoubtedly worthwhile.

An in-depth explaination of strategic HR can be found on the author's blog.