Strategic HR, a future-oriented process of developing and implementing human resource programs that address and solve business problems and directly contribute to major long-term business objectives, is something that’s talked about but not always implemented in the small- to mid-size business (SMB) zone.
“Nearly all HR leaders in the largest global companies are involved in strategic decision-making and participate on the organization's strategy team, and a majority of HR professionals report that strategic planning is part of their function,” SHRM points out. “In contrast, HR professionals in many medium and small organizations are not often involved in organizational or functional strategic planning.”
Also see: “How to Get Your Hiring On Track.”
In other words, most smaller companies still view HR as an administrative function focused on day-to-day responsibilities like employee recruiting and selection, and managing employee benefits. “Changing labor market conditions and new business thinking call for HR business strategies that include recruiting and retaining the right people,” SHRM notes, “as well as providing ethical and cultural leadership.”
Here are four starting points:
- Give HR a new name. Try something like “human capital” in lieu of human resources. “Instead of defining employment as a role with functions, which is the traditional human resources approach,” HR expert Ruth Mayhew writes, “human capital recognizes the value that employees bring to an organization. This approach is more people-centered, focusing on the strengths and talents of employees and allowing these strengths and talents to influence and define the business.”
- Include HR in company safety initiatives. Strategic development for workplace safety entails risk management and mitigating potential losses from on-the-job injuries and fatalities, Mayhew writes, and workers' compensation insurance is an area where a strategic plan helps lower company expense for insurance coverage. “Reducing accidents through training employees on the proper use of complex machinery and equipment,” she adds, “is one of the functional tasks associated with creating a safe work environment.”
- Put the right HR leaders in place. Find individuals who have business expertise, who speak and understand the “language” of distribution, and who aren’t afraid of change.
Other key traits to look for in an HR leader include:
- the ability to leverage data for good decision-making;
- an inclusive approach that empowers employees of all races, sexes, age groups, etc.;
- and a willingness to serve as a brand ambassador for your company.
“Investing in your people and helping them understand their purpose is all part of creating a high-trust, high-performance culture,” Great Place to Work’s Julie Musilek writes. “Today’s strategic HR leaders are demonstrating tremendous leadership and facilitating the change we need to see to drive innovation and business results while making workplaces great for all employees.”
- Embed employee relations into recruiting and selection. In today’s labor-constrained environment, HR managers need all of the ammunition they can get when it comes to finding, training and retaining good candidates. “Employee recruitment and selection is as much a part of employee relations as it is a separate discipline unto itself,” Mayhew says. “Therefore, an HR manager’s strategic role is to combine elements of employee relations into the employer’s recruitment and selection strategy.” By folding employee recognition programs into “promotion-from-within policies,” for example, distributors can tap into a very effective form of employee motivation that incorporates employee relations, recruitment, and selection.