In order to manage HR and people strategy, HR leaders need to enjoy working with people first and foremost. However, to really thrive we must be aware of the business as a whole; understanding its goals so that we can adapt people strategy to have a positive impact on the organisation.
As a young people director I've been supported by strong business and HR professionals; listening and learning from their experience. Here is some of their best advice:
1. Understand the commerciality behind everything you do
HR directors are not just responsible for ‘the people stuff’ in their organisations – they’re part of the leadership team.
You need to get away from the desk and find out what's happening in the business at every level. What are the challenges other department heads are facing? Can you learn from this – or can you help? HR directors should have a vast amount of knowledge to share with other leaders, so don’t be afraid to be a trusted adviser to them.
2. Make sure you put the right tools in place
The success of people strategy lies in having the right tools in place as a foundation, to ensure you can succeed at the higher level stuff. So take advantage of HR technology and analytics to measure your outcomes in comparison to your inputs.
Tools like this also allow you to see what’s working and what’s not – and to react in real time. Then when you have a stellar result from your HR strategy you’ll be able to report it to other board members and demonstrate the effectiveness of your initiatives.
3. Understand the business' purpose and vision, and do what you can to support them
A lot has been written about who the ‘customers’ of HR directors actually are – is it the people in the organisation, the board and stakeholders, or clients? I would say it’s all three, and as a strategic people director you should be able to see the connections between these parties.
Understand the business targets for the year ahead and then ensure your department aligns its strategy with them. If you’re clear about what the purpose and vision of the business are you’ll be able to understand how the culture you develop can motivate people to achieve these goals.
4. Concentrate on the strategic, delegate or outsource the day-to-day stuff
Think of delegating HR operations in terms of ‘empowerment’. If you as the people director empower employees to take on recruitment, performance management, and reward they will feel valued and enabled to carry out tactical HR duties.
This frees up time for you to focus on strategic HR – employee engagement, talent development, breaking silos, nurturing innovation, and developing a collaborative culture. If all these are linked to the overall business plan you can effectively instigate a results-driven people plan.
5. Make sure culture and values are lived throughout the organisation
The culture of an organisation has to be lived and breathed by all its members: from the board down to new recruits. Often leaders forget or underestimate the importance of culture and values. They can’t just be written in the staff handbook or stuck on the wall. My mantra is ‘hire for culture and train for skills’. Skills can be gained through learning and development, yet if a new employee doesn't fit in with your culture they will never be able to help your business succeed.
It's vital that every decision you make and every person you recruit fits into the culture and values of your business, because if you make values-led decisions the rest will fall into place.
Emily Moore is people director at HR consultancy Purple Cubed