The great thing about the internet is that it’s easy to see if you have any like minded homo sapiens out there thinking about the same things you are. I decided to do a search on the phrase “HR Strategy” on the Google search engine. Well at least one thing was confirmed – there are a lot of people thinking about HR strategy. With more that 30 million hits on the search engine, I began to wonder what value my views on the subject would add to the improvement of the “HR Business World”. But then I was also struck by the notion that real HR strategy is such a rare phenomenon in businesses, that with all this information out there, how come we are not seeing great strategies being formulated by organisations.
After some thought on the matter it dawned on me that all this information out there on the topic is probably about what you should do to create a great HR strategy, advise, pitfalls, best practices and the likes or even perhaps, a posting of their own HR strategy. OK, so if I can find out what to do, then I should be able to build a grand strategy? – Mmmm, again I came back to my concern that finding an organisation with real HR strategy was as rare as hen’s teeth, so maybe all of these contributions to the topic on the internet are missing the point, but surely the 30 million contributors can’t all be wrong!
I went back to the fundamental question – what is HR strategy? Of course it is a conscious effort to make ones organisation more competitive than the next through its employees. So if you have a strategy that does this, why on earth would you publish it onto the internet – surely not so your competitor could download it and re-strategise their HR thinking to be a more competitive company!
Here is the one key issue – people don’t understand that real HR strategy is about business competitiveness, most think it is about implementing HR best practices, and this is why you see so much commonality in the strategies and other documentation flooding the internet. HR strategy is only possible if the organisations executive firstly understands and accepts that employees can be a competitive advantage, and has the courage to change the organisation in structure, value, culture and thinking in order to achieve this. This is often just too difficult a mountain to climb, so instead the HR director implements interventions that are supposed to make the employees and the organisation better. The director buys into industry best practices, implements all the gizmos such as performance management systems, career planning systems, review systems and the like. What he has not seen is that he has become a clone of the industry they operate in. He is doing the same things as every other “Excellent” HR department and by default not differentiating themselves to become more competitive.
So what’s wrong with “HR Gizmo’s” I hear you say – they are after all good HR practice. Well, in isolation they may be of some value, but in all likelihood they will be viewed as an add-on to the already overloaded manager and employee work plate. You see, one of the other fundamentals of real HR strategy is that it must intertwine seamlessly within the organisation, and this can only be possible if HR activities are supporting a business objective that in itself supports growing business competitiveness through employees. If this is not the case, sooner or later your HR intervention will develop holes in it and sink to the bottom of the ocean – sucking along with it, the reputation of the HR department.
Most organisations will not expose their business strategies for fear of giving their competitors the edge, and until organisations see HR strategies in the same light, they will continue to miss the boat. From this it should also be obvious that the formulation of an HR strategy must be developed from within the organisation based on the knowledge of the overall business strategy, if it isn’t done this way, it cannot be regarded as a competitive HR strategy.
So I will stick my neck out and say that of the 30 million references to HR Strategy on the internet, most are singing the HR best practice tune. To all those organisations who have published their HR strategies for the world to see – may your employee competitiveness rest in peace.