Developing a human resources strategic plan that sits on a shelf and collects dust doesn’t improve the organization’s business processes or workforce efficiency. However, many strategic plans do just that because the goals are too lofty and idealistic or because HR doesn’t get the support it needs to implement functional steps. A number of factors are critical for a successful HR strategy, from the goal-setting process to coordinating action plans with front-line supervisors.
Human resources strategic goals are part of a long-range vision that demonstrates the company’s workforce plays an integral role in the overall success of the business. An HR strategy that is “integrated with the business strategy” is indicative of HR’s prominent role in the organization’s success, according to Edward Lawler III, business professor at the University of Southern California and author of “Forbes” magazine August 2012 article titled, “Corporate Strategy: How HR Can Become a Player.” When the HR department develops a strategic goal, it identifies the objectives required to achieve those goals. Objectives generally comprise functional steps necessary for completing each objective. The key to successful HR strategy is support from the company’s top leaders and participation from line managers and supervisors.
The SMART method is an effective way to develop strategic goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-sensitive. An example of a SMART-developed HR strategic goal is “To improve workforce engagement and employee retention through supporting employees’ work-life balance goals.” Engagement and retention are specific and measurable factors. Provided HR has support from leadership and the expertise to consider changes such as flexible work schedules and telecommuting options, the goal is attainable. It’s relevant because engagement complements organizational success. The time limit needn’t be expressly indicated; HR staff members can determine when to measure engagement and retention as one of the objectives.
Objectives are equally important to successful HR strategy. A strategic goal is merely a vision if it doesn’t have the necessary objectives and functional implementation. The HR staff is responsible for determining the proper objectives or ways to implement the functional steps; however, cooperation from other departments and front-line supervisors might be required at some point. For example, one of the objectives for improving engagement and achieving work-life balance is to determine how flexible scheduling will affect departmental operations and workforce management. HR must work collaboratively with department leaders to assess the logistics and impact of flexible work schedules.
Communication on all levels is critical to HR strategy, beginning with HR communication with the company’s top leaders. For front-line supervisors and department managers to get on board with HR goals, there must be support from the company’s highest-ranking managers. The combination of commitment from the organization’s top level and support from front-line managers is essential for HR to launch successful initiatives, according to labor-management and workforce development research consultant Jill Casner-Lotto, in a June 2001 interview with HR.com to discuss “Implications of Work/Life Change.” Casner-Lotto is director of the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education. Without high-level support, HR’s goals often are considered less important than strategic goals for revenue-generating departments such as sales or production. Support from department leaders occurs more frequently when the company’s top leaders demonstrate that they support HR’s goals.