I was called upon to review the syllabus for Strategic HR of a new management institute in Pune. The institute is affiliated to a University. I’d like to share some of my thoughts.

My main observation was that almost all the topics prescribed in the

The HR Value Proposition

The HR Value Proposition

curriculum were not very different from any HRM program. The attempts made to link HR processes to strategy the approach relied considerably on the functional HR theory. The core and reference books on Strategic HR had strategy and HRM as distinct chapters – not integrated seamlessly. I was surprised why some great books on Strategic HR by Dave Ulrich and Wayne Brockbank and a few others were missed out.

The main issues that arise are how can HR add strategic value to the business? And how can HR professionals who have not experienced the pulls and pressures of the core business be expected to fulfill this role successfully?

HR does attract good talent but unless they are exposed to business realities of the external environment a real transformation will always pose a challenge. Please read a brilliant article by Keith Hammond on “Why We Hate HR” at http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/97/open_hr.html.

The challenge therefore is how HR can be exposed to the external business environment. The traditional positioning of HR has always been in a staff role and therefore a ‘change’ to the role of a business decision maker and a leader with the responsibilities of ‘line’ will need a bold and innovative approach. In other words HR professionals will need to develop a CEO mindset and think like CEOs.

A fairly clear concept of strategic HR emerges in the article ‘The New Mandate of HR’ by Dave Ulrich that had appeared in the HBR read  http://www.hrequations.co.nz/SHRQ/downloads/ulrich%20new%20mandate.pdf

Like we have an intra-specialization in Finance and Accounting, Marketing and Sales do you have Strategic HR and Core HR in your organizations or there is no classical differentiation? What are the issues and challenges that emerge in your organizations?

I request you to share your experience and insights and enrich this debate. Thank you.

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About dilipnaidu

An open mind! Love to share my thoughts and a keenness to learn. An engineer and a MBA I had a wonderful innings in the Army and later moved to consultancy and teaching. My current interests are reading, music, growing culinary herbs, playing golf and yoga. I am serious on "Living life less seriously". A warm welcome to you be well and be cheerful always.

17 responses »

  1. sf says:

    Why we hate HR – that’s funny! Back when I used to work for a certain company which HR took care of Payroll also, I hated HR cuz they didn’t wanna pay me my overtime. And look how I’m now working in HR today – but without the Payroll part. Whew. Haha!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you!

    Like

  2. Girish Kohli says:

    Hon’ble sir,

    The role of strategic HR is very important which depends on the individual working as HR head.
    The company I am working had a vice president HR Mr,. Pandey who with his vision and excellent leadership turnaround had impressed the Chairman of the company to apply most of his suggestions in all our tewlve units and corporate office while on the other hand before his arrival Finance department views were implemented in the company.
    So it is we who can change the spectrum of the HR department through right implementation of Strategic HR functions.

    Regards,

    Girish

    Like

  3. Bharti Jadhav says:

    Hello Sir,

    As we discussed earlier in the class,though there is dominance of finance and marketing line managers in an organization ,however HR does add value to the organisation by taking some crucial decisions.From the article above, the new mandate for HR is to be 1) Strategic Player 2) Employee Champion 3) Change /transformation
    4) Administrative expert which will help HR to get knowledge of various sectors, also he will contribute and take initiative to take decisions.Today, most of the organisation are practicing this and thus i really don’t agree that HR do not add value to organizations productivity and effectiveness.

    Like

    • Dilip says:

      Yes Bharti HR can live up to its New Mandate as spelled out in Urich’s article it is sure to add value to the business. As such it’s word and advice will be sought after.

      I am happy that you have expressed your views. Do visit again. Kind regards.

      Like

  4. Girish Kohli says:

    the article was inspiring and innovative.
    With deep Regards

    Girish Kohli

    Like

  5. Aninda Mukherjee says:

    ‘A Bird in a Cage’. Well, I started with this simple statement, which has a very profound meaning. The Bird is the Strategic HR which is waiting to fly (Opportunity to prove his capability)…..and the key to the cage is with the top management. Thus, both are equally responsible and accountable to create an effect.
    Lets look into a very critical aspect that the initiative of bringing Strategic HR into limelight and creating effectiveness for the organization does not only depends upon the individuals who want to pursue this strategic role but to a great extent on the top management, who are heading the organizations. It’s a two way process. Both are two sides of the same coin, which are incomplete without the other. To have the effectiveness of Strategic Hr in organization, it is absolutely essential that it has the support and the confidence of the top management. Both need one other to create a better and effective organization.
    Although it is a bitter truth, the fact is that many organizations are still not enthusiastic and supportive about the role of a Strategic HR. A change in the MINDSET is absolutely essential. Now let’s understand that the change in mindset is required from both the sides.
    Let’s realize the fact that every HR cannot play the role of Strategic HR. I have my reasons for that… A Strategic HR has to start thinking where a Simple HRs thought process ends….
    He/She firstly needs to understand that concerned business of the organization. And for that the individual should be open to take the things as they come….an eagerness to learn every aspect of business. Creativity is another essential quality, a Strategic HR should possess. An Integrated knowledge of the business is not only important but absolutely essential for the survival and sustainability of a Strategic HR. It is through the POWER OF THINKING and LEADERSHIP QUALITY; a Strategic HR will create a credibility and difference in the organization.
    Now, let’s understand the role of the organizations in creating Strategic HR. An Organization can make or break the role of Strategic HR. It needs to show in its thought process and actions that it has confidence and trust in the Strategic HR. Another essential element, which an organization should possess while creating confidence and trust in Strategic HR is showing patience….which, is a very critical factor.
    It will take time for organizations to accept the importance and impact a Strategic HR can and will make in an Organization but once its understood, it will be just the start of A WONDERFUL BEGINNING………
    I end my comments with an everlasting thought that, “Rome was not built in a day” (All good things take time to create a long and everlasting effect).

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  6. Chaitanya says:

    I must elaborate my stand,

    ***sense things before they actually happen implies—-
    HRIS, Internal & external environ,mental scanning, manage by wondering around etc.,developing human resource professional’s skills to sense unseen.

    . Don’t fight & win the war but make conflict altogether unnecessary implies—-

    don’t be reactionary HR but be proactive in approach. To be proactive, sharpen individual personal & professional skills.

    we can interpret the same further in context of SHRM.

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    • dilipnaidu says:

      Chaitanya … so thoughtful of you to provide more insights … yes HR needs to be proactive is vital indeed… but I do visualize some inherent challenges to achieve a ‘proactive state’ as mentioned in my reply to Dipak’s comments above.

      I would love emanate a sequel to this post and ask a few questions and hope to get some answers from you folks.

      Thanks again!

      Like

  7. Dipak Gadekar says:

    Dipak Gadekar is Head HR, International Operations Business Group at Voltas Ltd. A TATA Enterprise

    Hi Dilip

    As there was a limit of characters on LinkedIn response, I could not elaborate there.
    What I mean is that we ought to align the HR strategy with the business strategy.
    Depending on the maturity level of the organization, different things are expected from the HR Dept. The spectrum could vary from just doing the basic HR admin stuff to being real Business partner and playing the strategic HR role.

    We see many examples where the HR heads do a lot of stuff without assessing what the organization requires. They follow the crowd and hence introduce what is called the 18 months fads.

    Even many powerful initiatives like Balanced Scorecard, Employee Engagement Survey, just to mention a few, are a waste of efforts if the organization is not ready for it and if they are not rolled out properly.

    The HR heads need to focus and prioritize on what is needed rather than what is nice to have ( fashionable ) and would add value to his CV rather than the organization’s strength.

    Hence the HR head need to understand the business of business, appreciate the business strategy and then, apart from ensuring basic HR deliverables, needs to align the HR initiatives in the area of Culture building, Leadership Development, Performance Orientation, etc. Need to then focus on developing and institutionalizing such HR initiatives, policies and programs which help organizations to achieve its business objectives.

    To give you just one example, the HR head of a product company which banks on ( technology) innovation as a strategy, the HR head needs to develop hiring process which checks the creativity and risk taking / experimenting ability of the people, need to align the performance management process to give thrust on innovation, align the Reward and recognition program which gives reinforcement to innovation as the culture, put in leadership development programs which places great value on these aspects and does not see failure of am experiment as a crime. It also needs to roll out other initiatives which make adequate budget and resources available to people to take up projects in the domain of innovation.

    And another organization which focuses on Customer intimacy as the business strategy will need HR programs which focus on another set of competencies.

    I hope I have made myself a bit clearer.

    Regards,
    Dipak

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    • dilipnaidu says:

      Thanks Dipak,

      Your entire comment is a great piece of learning better and more insightful then given in any Strategic HR book. “HR head need to understand the business of business”is a powerful message you have made for all of us. It has great significance as it comes from a person who has tons of experience in the highest of HR positions as well as expertise in this field.

      You have also revealed some of the critical reasons why HR is not able to deliver value. I wonder if it has something to do with the fact HR people are more engaged with their own functional responsibilities and unable to have an interface with the business environment?

      Thank you so much for making time and adding your views in this post.

      Like

  8. Shantanu says:

    To me HR or Marketing or Finance it does not matter, when we talk of strategy all these various verticals have to be looked upon in a consolidated approach.

    All the strategies developed by the organization have one goal, to achieve the business needs and growth (as applicable).

    There cannot be a marketing strategy or finance strategy or HR strategy in isolation, however these may be offshoots of a core strategic decision that the organization has adapted.

    To understand the business needs of a organization, one needs to spend some time and gain a certain experience with which one can understand what the organization requires, which is becoming increasingly rare especially in the HR dept. of the organization.

    Teaching strategic HR to person just out of a grad school may not help him much and just open a window to what it can be, but to a person who is crossing a level to become a part of the strategic group of a organization it means a lot of knowledge and understanding.

    As rightly described in the blog one needs to think like a CEO if the person has to make strategic decisions, so if one has to think like a CEO then make the person go through the grind of acquiring operational/functional knowledge and also cross-functional experience. Thus one integrates the ‘staff’ to the ‘line’. I know this is difficult, but this is increasingly seen as the solution as we see around in the companies which really understand the importance of such things.

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    • Dilip Naidu says:

      Shantanu, your views on the strategic role of HR highlight some real issues – “Take the bull by the horn” :)Coming from a ‘non HR’ professional it adds considerable value to this debate. I wish to deliberate on what you have expressed in your last two para’s and invite more views. May be put up another post. Thank you very much.

      Like

  9. Chaitanya says:

    To me, crux of Strategic HR is understanding external environment & accordingly build internal competency (Knowledge, skills ,attitudes).

    This process has to be satisfy key goals like:

    1. survival of organization.
    2. differentiation
    3. executing organizational & functional strategy
    4. profitability & performance
    5. setting up a process that will keep adopting to changes (build culture of learning)
    6. should target specific facets as well as broader organizational factors. (stake holders like customer, political environment to top performing employees)
    In words of Sun-Zu (Art of War) sense things before they actually happen. Don’t fight & win the war but make conflict altogether unnecessary.

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    • Dilip Naidu says:

      Thanks Chaitanya you have touched upon some key issues that are very important. Your point on ‘understanding the external environment’ is the real challenge for getting HRs strategic act together. Thank you for applying your mind and sharing your thoughts.

      Like

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