The Difference Between Strategic & Traditional HR

Traditional human resources management reacts to employees; when workers make requests or cause problems, HR steps in and takes care of it. Strategic HR involves planning. A strategic HR department looks ahead and heads off problems. These HR pros also look at the company’s needs for the future and develop strategies to meet them.

Traditional HR departments focus on managing labor relations, solving employees’ problems and generally keeping the staff happy. Strategic HR has plans for helping the organization – recruiting more workers, developing talent and training employees in company standards and principles.

Scope of Responsibilities

Traditional HR has a narrow focus on issues like basic personnel management and labor relations. Their goal is to take care of employees and keep them happy and satisfied. The HR team doesn’t educate workers about responsibilities or how things are done. That’s something they assume employees will pick up on the job or from their managers.

Strategic HR departments have a much broader mission:

  • Employee recruitment
  • Training and developing employees
  • Drafting an employee handbook that tells them what’s allowed, what’s expected, and the disciplinary process for when employees fall short
  • Finding ways to steer employees so the company can meet its productivity and profit goals

Human Resource Forecasting

Traditional HR focuses on current employees. Strategic HR thinks about what a company will need in the future. How many more staff will they need to hire? What skills or education will they need them to have? Then HR draws up a strategic plan to meet the future needs.

Strategic HR’s mission doesn’t end there. The department works actively to recruit individuals who can provide the skills the company needs, and then recommends which of them would make the best hire. Strategic HR also works to develop and promote talent among the existing workforce.

Heading Off Problems

It’s tempting to ignore potential problems until they happen, but it’s a mistake, particularly with people. Traditional HR steps in when employees have discipline problems or stir up trouble. It does nothing to prevent the problems from developing.

Strategic HR is proactive rather than reactive. If a company wants a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment or discrimination, traditional HR would make that known when an employee crossed the line. Strategic HR lets employees know from the start what behavior is unacceptable; the employee handbook and training seminars fill staff in on how to behave, or not behave. In the long run, that can save the company money on lawsuits and complaints.

Constant Updating in Strategic HR

Traditional HR sees itself doing the same thing, year in and year out, with the same tools. Only the faces of the employees change.

Strategic HR tries to stay on top of the game. They keep track of new ideas in the field and new technology that can make it easier to manage employees. They also watch the industry for innovative methods that the competition might use to motivate employees better.

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