Five Ways HR can Impact Strategic Execution

by Cathy Missildine | Posted | Business Impact

Five Ways HR can Impact Strategic Execution

Take a moment to think about your organization’s strategy and consider this scenario: your leadership team has just returned from their strategic planning retreat with gusto, an inspiring new vision and mission, and a wonderful strategic plan.

A wave of activity follows.  

Employees receive several flashy presentations outlining the new plan, cool T-shirts adorned with the new vision statement and, of course, matching coffee mugs to boot. The leadership team is very proud of their accomplishment.

Fast-forward three months. The T-shirts are tucked away in a drawer out of sight — and so is the strategic plan. The CEO wants to know how the plan is coming along. Everyone looks at him with a blank stare as if to say, “What strategic plan?”

Does this sound familiar?

After countless client projects involving strategy formulation and execution, I have learned many things, one of the most important being that failure to execute said strategy is the reason said strategy fails.

As an HR professional, it dawned on me that HR can impact strategic execution in a big way. Let’s face it, HR has been screaming to be strategic, so execution of strategy is a perfect place for HR to build credibility and exert some influence.

According to Rosanna Nadeau, SPHR,

“HR’s strategic role goes well beyond a team role in deciding the strategy. Execution is where most organizations struggle or fail, and HR can significantly impact execution.”

The issue is that the leadership team creates the strategic plan and hands it over to managers and frontline employees to execute. What happens between leadership and management is the problem.

There is no in-depth explanation of the strategy and, if there is, it sounds almost like a foreign language, loaded with words like —stakeholder value, profitable growth and creating value for customers.

How HR can get to strategic… from here

Employees need to see strategic initiatives broken down into digestible chunks called goals and objectives. HR has the perfect skill sets and tools to drive goals and objectives down to the employees on the frontline.

It’s called the performance management system. HR can become a strategic partner just by leveraging the organization’s performance management system as a tool to drive strategic execution.

HR has the opportunity to win well-known negative arguments about the profession. By focusing on strategic execution, HR will finally be viewed as strategic.

Secondly, by leveraging performance management systems in a way that drives business results, HR will get rid of the age-old dilemma of, “Do we need to complete performance appraisals?”

The answer becomes, “Of course we do in order to implement our strategy.”

Top five ways HR can impact strategic execution

So in my humble opinion, these are the top five ways HR can impact strategic execution:

  1. Be part of or lead the strategic planning process so HR is involved from the get-go.
  2. Assist in the creation of a simple document that communicates the plan in easily understandable terms for all employees.
  3. Align HR strategy to the new organizational strategy so that all HR programs link to and can impact strategy.
  4. Redo job descriptions, updating the new behaviors and/or competencies needed to make the strategy successful.
  5. Align all rewards and performance management processes to desired business outcomes.

These days, execution of the strategy is a high priority for the C-Suite. And the good news is that HR can finally leverage this opportunity to quit talking about that “illustrious piece of furniture” and become experts on strategic execution.

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, states:

“I’d rather have a first-rate execution and a second-rate strategy any time rather than a brilliant idea and a mediocre execution.”

The message really couldn’t be any clearer on how HR can finally become a rock star!

Your Turn:  What other suggestions do you have for how HR can impact strategic execution?

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