For about a year it really frustrated me that I was not able to find a definition that I could relate to or that felt meaningful to me…’what does it mean to be strategic?’, ‘what should I be doing to be seen as a strategic HR Partner?’. It wasn’t until 3 months into my first HR business partnering role that I started to form my own ideas of what ‘strategic HR’ meant and to be frank, I think there is no one recipe for success in this area. So much of what ‘strategic HR’ looks and feels like is dependent on the needs of your business.
The strategy will look different, depending on the size, shape, industry and even sometimes within a business (depending on whether it’s an operational or corporate function you are partnering). Therefore, I am starting to hone my own ‘strategy’ both for understanding what ‘strategic HR’ will look like for my client group but also which ensures the buy-in of the business:
When you first join:
- Invest time and effort upfront in getting to know your business really well. Go and spend time shadowing the team and get to know the real jobs people do and what they like and dislike. When you’re new you have license to ask these questions!
- Get to know who the influencers are. I have found that these are very rarely just the most senior people in the client group, so have an open mind.
- Have some killer questions in your back pocket which will help you get to the point of what’s really important to them: what does great performance look like to you and your stakeholders/ what is worrying you about the function at the moment/how happy do you think people are in their jobs?
- Depending on the resistance you face to operate in the strategic space, I find that looking for quick, small wins is very helpful. It can be as little as asking who they consider to be the successor for the known retiree next year or noticing a particular learning gap you have heard mentioned and presenting your thoughts on closing it. These are subtle indicators that you are thinking outside of the transactional box and about the future of the business.
- Consistently demonstrate that you are speaking with and know the people in the function. Be the person that can tell leaders helpful things about their team that they did not know.
- Think about ways to support them in dealing with their biggest headache. I have found that if, without being asked, you show that you both know what is keeping the business leaders awake at night and that you have a thoughtful plan of how you can support them with this then you will start to be viewed as a member of the team who is delivering on business strategy… It just so happens that the lever you pull to make this happen is your people skills.
- And let’s face it – when presented with a gnarly (and probably quite scary to them) HR issue, ‘strategic’ pretty much goes out of the window. Your business will need a knowledgeable, professional and in-control HR partner who is comfortable with this tactical work. Don’t be afraid to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in!
As I highlighted at the outset, I am just four years into my HR career and these thoughts are evolving as I work with new client groups in different businesses. It would be great to hear the thoughts of others attending the Successful HR Business Partnering Conference on their secrets to gaining buy-in for strategic HR!
“Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are Chloe Green’s personal opinion and do not represent the views of the author’s company or Symposium Events”