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Putting Together Your Company's HR Strategy

Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column. 

I'm an HR manager at a start-up in Silicon Valley. I have been in HR for almost three years. I spent the first two years figuring out what an HR manager does and taking classes to receive my certificate in HR management.

So far, it's been a roller coaster ride at times, and I'm wondering if I'm fit for this job. I find that it can be overwhelming and difficult to be an HR manager while still learning about the profession. Working for a start-up company does not always allow time to spend really learning and knowing HR. I have searched for a mentor, locally, to help me with learning as well as to give me feedback on projects. For example, I have been tasked with putting together a five-year HR strategy (I have not done this before) in a month or so. I have a pretty good foundation of the HR strategy so far (I think), but can always learn more.

Having been in HR yourself, what kinds of things did you do to grow and where did you find your mentors? Do you have any suggestions for me? I am currently a SHRM member and I have attended a few of the seminars, roundtable discussions, etc., to network as much as I can. I am generally a shy person, so this is something I am working on.


I'm not surprised you've got the jitters; such responsibilities are usually awarded to HR business partners and managed by senior colleagues. You have just been awarded a plum assignment that can expand your knowledge, practical expertise and sphere of influence in many ways. This project is an important job, a great professional opportunity, and a singular honor that you must seize with both hands and give all you've got.

HR exists to support the company in achieving its business goals, so task No. 1 is understanding the company's five-year business plan. Your subsequent HR plan will reflect a course of considered actions that put firm foundations under the company's business plan. Your work on this project will help the company demonstrate to investors and potential buyers that company leaders have thought through the issues and have a comprehensive and practical game plan with firm foundations to grow on.


Dominant HR Roles

HR has a multitude of responsibilities, but among the top imperatives are:

  • Finding the right talent in a timely and efficient manner.
  • Aligning HR imperatives with the company's dominant business goals.
  • Staying on top of compliance issues.
  • Having systems and procedures in place for hiring, firing, promotions, benefits and common employee concerns.


Five-Year Business Plans

You need to do some research to discover what the latest thinking is on building HR business plans. I did a few Google searches and got different and valuable results from each. I started with "HR business plan for start-ups" and got a slew of interesting input:

Then I varied it a little with "HR business plan for technology start-ups":

These plans are typically predicated on where the company sees itself in five years, in terms of revenue, manpower, and the HR infrastructure that will support and deliver the revenue goals as efficiently as possible. While companies tend to think in terms of five-year plans, no one expects the plans all to happen in the way they are initially laid out. Expect that things will change.

Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.

Packed with practical, honest, real-world guidance for successfully navigating common HR career challenges, Martin Yate's new book, The HR Career Guide: Great Answers to Tough Career Questions (SHRM, 2018), is available at the SHRMStore. Order your copy today. 


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