Many considerations go into creating a go-to-market or business strategy. From brand messaging to product roadmaps to sales processes, effective business strategies also rely on the input of lots of people across many departments.
Few departments have a better bird’s-eye view of the entire organization than human resources. HR professionals can see both why a strategy exists and how it’s developed and implemented. Yet, too often, HR departments don’t have a seat at the strategy table. Let’s take a look at how HR can help shape business strategy and bring it to life.
Why HR should get involved with setting corporate strategy
Today, business moves faster than ever—it’s a platitude, but it’s also never been more true. Technologies, industries, and consumers themselves are continually evolving in a digitally-driven market, and companies are continuously shifting their strategic focus to keep pace.
This culture of change has a significant impact on people. Every business decision has a real-life impact, and HR departments are specially equipped to inform strategy and help employees navigate the resulting changes.
Consider these reasons why it’s so important for HR to align with business strategy:
- Move in lockstep with the rest of the company: Goals are always more achievable when there is universal buy-in and alignment across teams.
- Give HR initiatives a strategic focus: In today’s changing economy, there are countless ways to recruit, train, attract, invest in, and support employees. But it’s impossible to tackle every initiative all at once. Aligning with business strategy gives HR a strategic focus and helps prioritize goals.
- Secure the right talent: Good talent is always valuable, but companies may need to invest in different skill sets or roles at different times. Understanding the strategic goals of the business will help HR attract and retain the right talent at the right time.
What role human resources plays in strategic planning
So how does HR become part of the broader business decision-making process? How do HR departments move from a reactive, service-oriented function to a more executive-level, strategic one?
It starts with setting clear objectives for the department and strong values for the entire organization. Companies with documented values are less likely to ignore the real-life impact of any strategy shifts or big decisions. Consider these steps as you begin.
1. Align and set your HR goals
The main strategic role of HR is to create goals to help meet key business objectives. Goals may vary depending on the company’s strategic plan, but focusing on HR fundamentals is an excellent place to start. Here are some areas of HR most commonly affected by broader strategic business shifts.
The way companies are organized largely depends on their current strategic objectives and growth stages. If a company is in a high-growth stage, it may have a sales-driven culture with more sales employees and sales executives in decision-making roles. Mature companies with a retention-focused strategy may hire more customer success roles.
See 7 types of organizational structures—along with pros and cons for each—to find one that fits your strategy.
Maybe current business goals are more focused on employee retention or culture-building. Conversely, perhaps the company needs to cut costs. In either case, compensation structure may be an important consideration. When HR is aligned and informed on these goals, they can make strategic decisions to help the organization meet them.
Depending on the business goals and immediate initiatives, it may be necessary to train employees on new skill sets. Some employees may resist additional roles and responsibilities, so the role of HR in these situations is to both evangelize additional training and ensure teams are developed to keep pace with shifting needs.
Clear business strategies are also tied to clear KPIs. With HR aligned on these performance benchmarks, it can better evaluate employee performance and provide more actionable feedback during review discussions.
As a people-focused department, HR often has the best pulse on employee sentiment throughout the organization. It makes sense, then, that HR can act as effective advocates and change agents in implementing business strategy, creating a blueprint employee engagement and success. HR departments can encourage employees to share their feedback on new business strategies or technology investments to ensure any changes or strategic shifts make sense from an operational perspective.
2. Formulate specific actions to hit those goals
Once you’ve aligned and set goals, it’s time to develop action plans to execute your HR strategic vision. Focus on developing and improving processes for recruiting, hiring, employee development, and performance reviews.
When creating an optimized action plan, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your organization’s current structure and identify any gaps or shortcomings in your processes. Where should you invest more in recruiting? If budgets are tight, what training or employee development programs need to be in place to maximize the productivity and effectiveness of your existing talent? How many sales reps does HR need to hire in a specific territory?
The ability to visualize where every player fits into the larger organization can help HR departments align employees to business strategy, maximize efficiency, and see data in context to drive better decisions. Org charts and related visuals can help HR departments optimize organizational structure at every level and make better people decisions, such as:
- Assigning employees where their skills can make the most significant impact
- Making informed decisions about pay, equity, and performance
- Modeling current and future org structures to determine how best to scale your business
Does your organization needs to hire new talent to meet its strategic goals? See how to develop a staffing plan.
3. Track and measure performance
Historically, the role of HR has lied in the “softer,” people-focused side of the business. However, people analytics are now the new HR, and HR departments are just as responsible for reporting on the performance of their initiatives as any other department.
With human resource alignment around data-driven goals, HR leaders can ensure that decision-making not only aligns with strategic business objectives but also helps drive those goals. HR leaders can analyze data from sales, marketing, and accounting to break down departmental silos and better align with overall business goals.
Data-driven human resource alignment
According to a Bersin by Deloitte study, data-driven HR teams are four times more likely to be respected by their business counterparts, which can result in more input in strategic decision-making. By combining departmental data and HR data and visualizing it all in a single workspace, HR departments can better align their decisions to business strategy. Consider the ways these types of people analytics can impact the broader business:
Employee analytics: Measure the performance of all the HR initiatives in terms of cost, time, performance, then use a dashboard to track recruiting times, onboarding speed, employee satisfaction, and employee salaries. This data-driven approach to people management helps HR departments evaluate pay disparities, track employee retention, identify trends, and see critical employee metrics that will provide quick insights for better decision-making.
Benefit: Efficient onboarding, improved employee satisfaction, and retention
Talent analytics: Today, effective talent acquisition goes way beyond budget and headcount. HR departments can rely on algorithmic data to quickly sift through deep pools of qualified applicants to attract and retain top talent.
Benefit: Identify and attract higher-quality employees and improve workforce planning
Predictive analytics: Set up indicators to see when an employee is at risk of leaving the company. HR departments can use data to identify risk facts and predict employee churn and how this will affect the company.
Benefit: Better retention and employee planning
Invest in better people planning
Modern human resources departments manage much more than hiring, onboarding, and benefits. Aligning HR with business strategy can boost employee satisfaction and performance, ensure teams are aligned to help the business achieve its strategic objectives, and increase their influence and decision-making power across the organization.
See how Lucidchart helps organizations align employees to a business strategy and drive better decisions.