Sunday, May 23, 2010

10 Lessons Learned in the Quest to Become Strategic in HR

I am rereading the book "Roadmap to Strategic HR: Turning Great Ideas into a Business Reality" by Ralph Christensen.  I believe I have read this book about 3 times.  I always learn something new every time I revisit the book.  As I continue to work with HR Departments on strategy and structure,  I have found that no two situations are the same.  I find myself going back to tried and true principles and theory as my foundation when transforming HR departments from transactional to strategic.

Here are some of my lessons I have learned over the last several years working with HR Departments that chose to go through a dramatic change by moving to a strategic "Business Partner" approach to HR:

1) Buy in from the top is absolutely REQUIRED without C-Level support, do not move forward.

2) Be sure to understand your company's definition of strategic as that means different things to different people.

3) You can't be strategic if HR is  not intimately involved with the organizational strategy.

4) You HAVE to do the basics right.  If you can't get people paid correctly then you lose credibility which is necessary to participate in strategic discussions.  

5) Don't start with the HR organizational chart.  Don't start moving boxes around until you understand what HR services your customers need and want based on strategy.

6) Make sure line management is involved in the redesign process.  Managing talent is everyone's job, so get line management involved with HR programs, policies, procedures, etc.  (Christensen discusses this at length in his book)

7) Make sure when leadership says they are ready for change, that they REALLY are ready for change.  Change is hard, it takes time, and a lot of energy.  So many times, I hear leaders SAY they want change, but their ACTIONS demonstrate they are really more comfortable with the status quo.

8) MEASURE what matters to your organization.  It's hard to be strategic unless you know how the strategy is working and which areas need a course correction.

9) Research what other companies are doing.  Don't try to replicate another organization's strategy or structure, but understand the lessons and successes.

10) It's hard for HR to be strategic in a vacuum.  HR needs to be in the line of site with a C-Level person.  I think it is critical for the top HR person to report preferably to the CEO.  To be able to hear what keeps the CEO up at night, from the horse's mouth is invaluable.

What are some of your own lessons?  Please share your experiences by commenting below.
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