How HR Can Influence Organizational Strategy

Dori Meinert By Dori Meinert June 29, 2016

​At many organizations, senior executives create a strategic plan, only to have it sit on a shelf and gather dust. That leaves the organization investing time and resources in all the wrong places.

At other workplaces, there may be no strategic plan at all.

HR professionals can take a key role in shaping their organization's strategy and contributing to its future success because they know the workforce better than most, according to Michael Wilkinson, managing director of Leadership Strategies Inc. in Atlanta.

"We need to be at the table when strategy is designed. We need to be at the table when strategy is implemented," said Wilkinson, who spoke at a concurrent session at the Society for Human Resource Management 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition in Washington, D.C., on June 21. "But we have to prove we deserve that seat."

HR professionals can influence their organization's strategy by:

  • Promoting strategy development at the organizational, division and department levels. "We should be asking the strategic questions at every level of the organization.: Where are we going? What do we need to be doing to get there?" Wilkinson said.
  • Providing strategy development training and resources to the organization. "We have to equip our people to do their work," he said.
  • Modeling strategy by developing a strategic plan for the HR department to demonstrate its value.

As a first step in developing a strategic plan, assess where the organization is today. Frequently, senior leaders have a great vision, but they don't have a clear and accurate picture of the organization's current status. They may see only the strengths or only the weaknesses, Wilkinson said.

Then, have executives create a shared vision of what they hope the organization will look like in the future. Encourage senior leaders with differing visions to debate once where the organization is going but then to agree to go in the same direction.

Another challenge is understanding what is critical to the organization's success. It may not always be obvious. What key conditions must be created to help the organization succeed? What are the barriers to that?

Next, identify the "drivers" within your organization. They are the people who can get things done.

"The drivers have to break through the barriers to get where we want to be," he said.

Finally, determine how the organization will monitor and measure its progress toward achieving its objectives.

Many strategic plans fail because organizations never get around to the monitoring phase, Wilkinson said. Some make the mistake of measuring activities instead of results. For example, an organization might say its objective is to hold two membership drives a year without stating how many new members it would like to recruit.

Another common mistake organizations make is confusing goals and objectives, he said.

A goal is a broad, long-term aim that defines the accomplishment of the mission, he explained, while an objective is the specific, quantifiable, realistic target that can help you measure whether you're accomplishing the goal.

Other top reasons strategic plans fail include inadequate planning and failing to include key people in the planning, he said.


Dori Meinert is senior writer/editor for HR Magazine.



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