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We spend our working life telling HR professionals that they and their colleagues can make a difference. And then we tell them how. 

Strategy is one of those (too many) words in HR that hints at a lot but actually means very little. What do line managers mean by strategy? Do line managers think about strategy? Do senior managers think about strategy? The answer is usually ‘very little’.

Why is it that we in HR get so caught up in being strategic? And then are usually confused about what we mean by it? If we can’t define then term then we have little chance of showing line managers how well we can perform in delivering it.

At CourageousHR we break ‘strategy’ into two different concepts; proactiveness and the strategic process. 

Being proactive is the state or ability to anticipate and act in advance of potential problems. That is, to deal with an issue or potential issue before it becomes a problem. Although this sounds simple, HR can be guilty of trying to be proactive but not using language our customers can relate to e.g. using HR jargon, describing processes and not outputs etc (but more of this for another day).

The other area is the strategic process. A well known American academic (who we like) describes the strategic process in three stages – planning, developing and implementing. He (and his colleagues) say that the more HR is involved at the planning stage, the more efficient they’ll be. 

Excellent news. But how can HR become involved?

We try to get HR professionals to recognise that they add ‘strategic value’ in a number of ways – the first is by having and sharing unique knowledge about the organisation (from talking to employees and managers at all levels across the organisation), the organisations capabilities (from talent management processes such as performance management, skills reviews etc) and from competitors (gleaned from interviews, HR contacts and third parties such as recruiters).

The second is by defining in advance and then measuring people performance – from simple measures such as productivity and retention to more complex tools such as the Balanced Business Scorecard.

The third is to model best practice – linking their activities to the organisations strategy, using people metrics, being ‘partners’ etc.

The next is to recognise that HR brings a unique perspective and understanding all parts of the organisation from a people perspective.

Finally, HR can bring technical HR knowledge and experience, how to implement various HR levers such as training and reward and know the risks and opportunities of each lever, core foundations of change such as values and culture, and the dynamics of individuals and groups.

Not a bad starting point is it?