On my red-eye flight home, the buzz of HR Tech receded and I settled into the comforting sounds of screaming infants and roaring airplane engines. Finally, after two days of whirlwind conference activity, I was able to process what I had observed at HR Tech.
Session after session, presenters emphasized the need to transform HR into a strategic entity. Remember, famous thought leaders sternly reiterated, strategic means you are linking your HR activity to business goals and outcomes. Speak the language of business, not the language of HR. Identify and collect data that matters to your business, not just to HR.
What can I conclude from this message? It is obvious that HR (with few exceptions) does not know how to be strategic! That is why they need to be told, over and over again, to link their activities to business goals.
The overwhelming feeling at the conference was that HR’s very survival depended upon its ability to be strategic. It was as if a non-strategic HR would be eliminated from business altogether.
What a nasty message! Would employees have to write their own paychecks?
For one, let us remember that HR performs many, many important tactical roles in an organization. HR is superb at working closely with the individuals in the workforce. They develop and implement HR processes that are reliable, efficient, and effective. They train new hires, set up payroll, ensure workforce compliance, deploy health and benefits programs, and generally look after the “care and feeding” of employees under the corporate umbrella. HR is full of specialized people who deeply care about others and care about improving HR systems.
HR, hold your tactical head up high!
Without HR, none of this would happen. None of it would happen quickly, reliably, efficiently, and with minimal disturbance to your normal work duties.
But, now, on top of these administrative and tactical responsibilities, HR is expected to transform. HR is being told to become strategic.
Realistically, how do businesses expect this to happen? Does this magically occur by choosing the “right” HR technology for your business? No, of course not! In order to choose the “right” HR technology, you must already have a strategy in mind.
In order to solve this “transform into a strategic HR“ conundrum, let’s look to how the rest of the organization achieves strategic functionality. What we see is that, in most businesses, those teams responsible for strategy are mainly responsible for…strategy (surprise!). They assess the near and far term business goals, they assess the current state of the company, they develop a strategy to get the business from current state to future state, and they put together a plan to implement that strategy. Then, they communicate that plan to the tactical arms of the organization. Those tactical teams focus on implementing and executing that strategy in the most efficient, effective way possible.
Considering how the rest of business splits strategic and tactical responsibilities, my suggestion for businesses is this: Leave HR alone. Let them do what they do best – helping out the people in the organization. Reward them for improving processes and HR systems and being amazing people tacticians.
If you want strategy, then add a Workforce Strategy layer into your business between HR and the CEO. This person or team can focus purely on developing a workforce strategy to align the workforce for the needs of the business. HR and Workforce Strategy will likely develop a natural tension as they work together to attend to business needs as well as care for individuals. However, once a year, they can go to HR Tech, arm-in-arm. The Workforce Strategy can search the Expo floor for strategic tools and HR search the Expo floor for new HR systems.
The end result? Your business will have a strategically aligned, and strategically valued workforce. Strategy will concentrate on strategy, tactics will concentrate on tactics and the entire business will benefit! Isn’t that, not HR transformation, the real business goal?
Christina Wong is a Business Development Executive at Talent Analytics Corp. She can be reached via Christina@talentanalytics.com.