In today’s post, CAI’s Vice President of Membership Doug Blizzard discusses the importance of setting a corporate strategy to begin the process of aligning HR to the business.
I’ve talked with several senior HR executives recently about a conundrum they face. They want to align HR to their business, however there doesn’t appear to be a business strategy in place to align HR to. When they inquire about said strategy they hear things like “we are pursuing a growth strategy” or “our primary strategy is reflected in the budget” or even better “the world is changing too fast to really have a formal strategy.”
I’m not here to make the case for aligning HR to the business. That case has been made a hundred times over and there are thousands of companies that have figured that out and they lead their industries every year. I’m also not going to talk about how you can align HR to the business. That’s a much broader subject. Click here for more on that or see the reading list I prepared for you below.
I do want to talk about the first step in aligning HR to the business and that is setting a corporate strategy.While more enlightened companies have given HR a seat in the boardroom and the opportunity to help shape their corporate plans, the vast majority will expect HR and other departments to fall into line once a business strategy has been mapped out. And some number of those companies don’t have a formal corporate strategy, particularly smaller companies in growth mode.
Here are three steps you can follow to help you understand your corporate strategy:
First, just because you haven’t seen a corporate strategy doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Unfortunately many companies don’t involve HR and some don’t trust or value HR’s contribution to the strategy. Other companies hold corporate strategy very close to the vest. It’s easy to go negative and second guess executives when you feel uncertain about how and why decisions are being made. Check your own negative attitude and pursue further.
Second, the most straightforward and perhaps logical path to understanding corporate strategy is to just ask the CEO. If you can talk to the CEO by all means do so. Be prepared however to explain why you need to know. The simplest explanation: I need to understand where we are going so I can make sure our workforce has the skills and competencies necessary to both get us there and keep us there. Also I need to make sure we have the necessary leadership, culture, work systems, performance capabilities, rewards and incentives and governance to achieve our goals. Now of course if your company doesn’t look to you to do any of the things I just mentioned then your bigger issue is building credibility for the HR function. Click here for ideas on how to do that.
Now the CEO may not give you a formal plan so be prepared to ask questions to help you shape the HR implications of the ideas he/she has in their head. Which brings me to an important point, asking the CEO about strategy isn’t a hallway conversation. You should schedule a meeting. If you don’t report to the CEO, by all means talk to your boss first. They may have all the answers you need, or they may block you.
Third, if you’re unable or unwilling to talk to the CEO, or your boss doesn’t like the idea and can’t provide any insight, what can you do? Well if you’re a publicly traded company you can find information in annual reports, investor statements, etc. Here are some other ways you can uncover your corporate strategy complements of CAI friend and world renowned HR thought leader Dr. David Ulrich:
- Read positive and negative analyst reports
- Read magazines, newspapers and articles about your company
- Read magazines, newspapers and articles about your industry
- Attend industry trade shows
- Master internal market reports
- Learn how internal market reports are generated
- Visit customers in their buying context
- Visit customers in their product or service utilization context
- Study competitors in detail
- Be personally involved in market research
- Track financial analysis of market segments
- Attend marketing meetings
- Attached product development meetings
- Attend sales meetings
- Invite customers, analysts and shareholders to address training programs
- Invite customers, analysts and shareholders to attend training programs
- Invite customers, analysts and shareholders to address management meetings
- Invite customers, analysts and shareholders to address HR meetings
- Invite customers, analysts and shareholders to address meetings of line operators
- Know what you don’t know
Your company desperately needs to have HR strategies woven into every fabric of the business. Your path to do that may be difficult but it’s worth it. Don’t hesitate to reach out to myself, or Rick Washburn orTom Sheehan for help in aligning your HR practices to your business.
For additional guidance about how to craft your business strategy, please contact our Advice & Resolution at at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. If you have any suggestions about ways to align HR to business strategy, let us know in the comments!