3 meetings to craft an awesome HR Strategy – How I D-I-D it!

Road to Strategic HR

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This dialogue from the famous movie ‘Mardaani’ suggests that in order to do something, you need ‘intent’ and not ‘regulations’.

My personal take – intent needs to precede regulations, and for HR to be strategic, intent, needs to precede policy.

So, you’d probably ask, what is a “good’ strategy. A few years back, as a budding HR guy, I’d attended a few HR conferences. I saw some notable speakers present buzzwords like “Clear Communication”, “Empowering Culture”, “Thought leadership” and “Digital transformation” as strategy and started thinking that probably those are ‘good’ HR strategies.

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Then I read this book by Richard Rumelt.

It describes the Core of a Good Strategy – one that always starts with the “kernel,” a foundation with three components:

  • “Diagnosis”
  • “A Guiding Policy”
  • “A Set of Coherent Actions”

After reading this book, the buzzwords stopped making any sense to me! I genuinely grew more interested in understanding how to develop HR strategies and identified multiple opportunities to

  • participate in some powerful conversations with seasoned HR leaders in my organizations and
  • get involved in opportunities to develop HR strategies for the organizations

I believe that this experience has helped me become a better HR Business partner (HRBP) today. So, Let’s ask ourselves the following questions,

  • Why is being strategic important for HRBPs?
  • If you are a HRBP, on a scale of 1-10, How satisfied are you with the strategic support that you provide to your business as HRBPs?
  • How would the business leader respond to the questions above?

If you are convinced that being strategic is important for HRBPs, it’s important to define what is strategic HR and what is not. This LinkedIn learning on Strategic Human Resources shares some great insights in the first 4 minutes itself with an example of a transactional HR response versus a strategic HR response to a business challenge. 

Why this, why now? Isn’t strategy development done at the start of a year or a decade?

You can develop an HR strategy anytime OR build further on an existing one, especially if you have joined a new organization, taken over responsibility for supporting new businesses or you foresee a business impact coming up. In these unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the fact that many organizations are forced to revisit their HR strategies, HR professionals need to craft plans that capture the impact of the pandemic in their strategies.

How to develop a HR strategy 

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Most articles on the internet share the “why” and the “what” of HR strategies,

However, very few actually get into the “How”. So, in this article, I’m going to go through the “How”.

Building further on this SHRM strategic planning toolkit, I’ve laid out few steps to develop a HR strategy –

 How to start?

  • Assessing an organization’s current state
  • Envisioning and articulating an organization’s desired future

How do build and achieve results?

  • Formulating a strategy and identifying the strategic objectives to achieve it
  • Implementing the strategy
  • Monitoring the strategy to assure it is successfully implemented

Assessing an organization’s current state, “Where are we today?”

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  • Is HR considered a key player in the strategic planning process or merely an administrative body?
  • Is HR the first option for advice about strategic people or organizational matters, or do line managers attempt to resolve issues without consultation?
  • Who within the organizational leadership are promoters of change, and who resist change and strategic interventions from HR?
  • Once it’s determined who is promoting change – a business-leader, a seasoned-manager or someone from HR itself – how can we best influence those individuals to facilitate strategic conversations?
  • Who are the key stakeholders who would like to have a say and should be involved in developing the strategic people plan (think RACI)?
  • What artifacts, guidance and strategy documents can we draw from? e.g. Company Mission & Vision Documents, External market trends, Global Business Unit Strategy documents, Prior year HR strategy documents, all of them? any other?
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Anonymous – “If it’s not on paper, it’s not a plan

My take – “If it’s not on paper, not agreed upon by the ‘right’ people and not implementable, it’s not a plan”

Envisioning and articulating an organization’s desired future, “Where do we want to go?”

Defining the north-star through D-I-D model

This is the core of the effort, an awesome HR strategy can actually be built in just 3 meetings with your business leader. This is how:

Meeting #1 | DIAGNOSE – Business Leader’s point-of-view

  • Is there a business plan/strategy that has been created globally or locally for the business area? Could you walk me through some business focus areas for us defined globally?
  • Amongst these business focus areas, which ones, according to you, would be more relevant for our business here?
  • What according to you, would be top 3 ‘People’ focus areas globally?
  • What according to you, would be top 3 ‘People’ focus areas for you here?
  • How would our business look like a year from now? What developments do you anticipate?
  • What could be some emerging ‘people’ focus areas as a result of such developments?

Meeting #2 | INFLUENCE – HRBP’s point-of-view

HR Analytics driven – According to various qualitative and quantitative HR metrics that I analyzed, I wanted to get your thoughts on the following questions:

  • Example 1: My analysis of current salaries – compa-ratios, HR and exit interview feedback surveys and 1:1 discussion with your directs and management team suggests that attrition due to salaries may not be a people focus area, it seems to be the stress in work environment. How do you suggest we prioritize this issue instead of compensation?
  • Example 2: A new finding for me was that our average managerial span is nearly 40 direct reports and the Manager effectiveness feedback score is lower than the global business units’ score. We may need to invest on leadership development. What are your thoughts on this?

Meeting #3 | DRIVE – HRBP’s ask

  • Here is the final draft of your businesses’ HR strategy that we came up with, could you please share with your leadership and get agreement?
  • Here are some cross-business focus areas, I believe that you could lead this one for our larger organization, what do you think?

The D-I-D approach can help us co-create a plan with business by understanding the business context, diagnosing key people issues through analytics and ensuring ownership of results. Implementing the strategy and monitoring the strategy to assure it is successfully implemented is key. This needs to be driven by business in partnership with HR and NOT by HR alone. The right set of business people need to be identified who will implement the plan, and the HR strategy areas needs to be factored into their goals.

While the above approach is suited for the HRBP context, other teams within HR like Talent Acquisition or Total Rewards OR even HR Consultants can leverage the approach. I’d love to hear about more such stories through your comments – please feel free to share about “How you D-I-D it”!