Human Resources: A Guide to Effective HR Strategies
The human resources department of a company recruits top talent and keeps current employees satisfied through benefit plans, training and the creation of a pleasant work environment. To achieve this, managers within the department and company must devise a strategy to attract the appropriate type of employee and develop programs to train their current staff. Although HR strategies may be as unique as a fingerprint, they all require executive and managerial support in order to thrive.
"Buy-in is the enthusiastic support, not merely compliance, by those people who are responsible. The best and most elegant strategic and macro-management plans are insufficient. Without buy-in, strategy remains at the passenger terminal and the flight to organizational success is stalled at the end of the runway,” said Ric Willmot, the Strategist for the Executive Wisdom Consulting Group.
KEYS TO AN EFFECTIVE HR STRATEGY
An effective HR strategy has a clear and focused agenda. “It has three simple ideas: 1. What are the choices that the business has made about growth, 2. What are the capabilities we need to deliver on those, and 3. Which of those star points do we need to work on to create those capabilities,” said Greg Kesler, Managing Partner of Competitive Human Resources Strategies, LLC and co-author of the upcoming book Leading Organization Design: How to Make Organization Design Decisions to Drive the Results You Want (Jossey-Bass, 2010) with Amy Kates.
“An HR strategy answers the question: what do we need to do around those star points over the next three to five years.” The specific horizon depends on the industry and nature of the business.
Successful HR strategies keep the company’s goals and objectives in mind. “The key is to put your finger on the two or three growth paths to place investments in and then ask the question: what are the capabilities that this company has to have to execute on that. What are capabilities that we have to have organizationally to accomplish those choices of growth?” said Kesler. The company’s objectives, both short- and long-term, often help hiring managers seek qualified talent for open positions, sets the tone of the workplace and may improve company morale. Keeping the company’s objectives in mind will allow the strategy developers to focus on connecting people with the goals themselves.
“Most companies that are doing this well work with some kind of a framework that says, in order to create those capabilities organizationally there are five sets of strategies, or three or seven,” said Kesler. These strategies can include the business strategy, organizational structure, measurement and rewards systems, and people and talent.
A framework defines the role of individual positions and departments within the organization helps employees identify their role within the company. It also allows employees to the opportunity to see where their responsibilities lie and how they can enhance productivity, efficiency and the quality of the end product or service. This sense of personal responsibility gives the employee a defined purpose within the company and allows departments to focus their energy where they can have the greatest impact. For large or established companies, this may mean a tough analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the business and each department. However, through this analysis, it will be easier to create an organizational framework that moves the company forward.
HAZARDS TO AVOID
Many HR professionals fall prey to common hazards that often impair the success of the strategy. Kesler advises the following: 1. Avoid HR speak: Keep it practical and close to the business, 2. Find the pivot points in talent and organization that will have the most impact on results; don’t treat all jobs and talent as equal – be willing to differentiate, and 3. Measure what you do.
Finally, a company can have a great HR strategy, but it’s worthless if the proper channels and professional staff aren’t in place to put it into action. HR support from the top down is essential to the success of any HR strategy. “Although you will probably need to get the entire organization to buy in to the strategy, failure to get buy-in from the right people, especially the executive suite can cripple your plans for expansion and growth right from the outset,” said Willmot.
How innovation is transforming government
According to Washington Technology’s Top 100 list, Leidos is the largest IT provider to the government. But as Lieutenant General William J. Bender explains, “that barely scratches the surface” of the company’s portfolio and drive for innovation.
Bender, who spent three and a half decades in the military, including a stint as the U.S. Air Force’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), has seen action in the field and in technology during that time, and it runs in the family. Bender’s son is an F-16 instructor pilot. So it stands to reason Bender Senior intends to ensure a thriving technological base for the U.S. Air Force. “What we’re really doing here is transforming the federal government from the industrial age into the information age and doing it hand-in-hand with industry,” he says.
The significant changes that have taken place in the wider technology world are precisely the capabilities Leidos is trying to pilot the U.S. Air Force through. It boils down to developing cyberspace as a new domain of battle, globally connected and constantly challenged by the threat of cybersecurity attacks.
“We recognize the importance of the U.S. Air Force’s missions,” says Bender, “and making sure they achieve those missions. We sit side-by-side with the air combat command, intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance infrastructure across the Air Force. There are multiple large programs where the Air Force is partnering with Leidos to ensure their mission is successfully accomplished 24/7/365. In this company, we’re all in on making sure there’s no drop in capability.”
That partnership relies on a shared understanding of delivering successful national security outcomes, really understanding the mission at hand, and Leidos’ long-standing relationship of over 50 years with the federal government.
To look at where technology is going, Bender thinks it is important to look back at the last 10 to 15 years. “What we’ve seen is a complete shift in how technology gets developed,” he says. “It used to be that the government invested aggressively in research and development, and some of those technologies, once they were launched in a military context, would find their way into the commercial space. That has shifted almost a hundred percent now, where the bulk of the research and development dollars and the development of tech-explicit technologies takes place in the commercial sector.”
“There’s a long-standing desire to adopt commercial technology into defense applications, but it’s had a hard time crossing the ‘valley of death’ [government slang for commercial technologies and partnerships that fail to effectively transition into government missions]. Increasingly we’re able to do that. We need to look at open architectures and open systems for a true plug-and-play capability. Instead of buying it now and trying to guess what it’s going to be used for 12 years from now, it should be evolving iteratively.”