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Thursday, November 05, 2009

From Transactional to Strategic HR, The Needed Competencies

This is the fourth and last of the series on transitioning to strategic HR but definitely not the last time I'm going to write about it. Please read the three previous posts to appreciate this proposal in its totality.

So, aside from the usual HR skills, what other competencies should a strategic HR have? Let me share with you what I think are core. If you think I'm missing some, please feel free to contribute by adding a comment below.

Here's my list.

Strategic Planning
HR should devote some amount of time on learning strategic planning specially from an HR's vantage point. HR should be able to participate in company-wide planning sessions by creating its own plan that responds to and align with the organization's strategic direction. If the company is taking a particulars strategy to achieve it's growth goal, HR should be able to respond to questions like, how many people is needed to perform that strategy? How many of them are here? How many are not? What kind of skills are available? What can we develop, what can we buy from outside? What kind of HR programs should be put in place to ensure consistent alignment with the goals?

Business Savvy
HR cannot continue to think of and implement all sorts of programs and be oblivious of business realities. Every HR action has a corresponding cost attach to it. HR then should always consider returns for every HR-related investments it makes or proposes. HR should learn the language of the business and use it to communicate with management. This is the only way for both parties to fully appreciate HR strategies vis-a-vis organizational strategies.

In order for the strategic partnership to prosper, HR should be seen as a trusted ally by all, and by all I mean management and employees. HR should be seen as "pro-what's-right" rather than pro-management or pro-labor. If everyone is clear about what HR stands for, they should be able to appreciate HR's action more. In order for HR to successfully demonstrate this, HR needs to communicate a lot. It should be able to explain the wisdom of all it's action. It's not hard when HR is clear about it's values and is able to demonstrate that value with integrity.

Relationship Building
I believe that HR (or any leader for that matter) should operate from a position of influence rather than authority. If HR is to build good working relationship with other managers and the rest of the organization, it cannot throw it's weight around by being impervious to feedback or criticism. HR has to be consultative and attuned to how the rest of the organization is feeling. Propose and sell HR programs and policies, do not impose them. Welcome comments most importantly complaints because that is the best way to improve how things are done within the department. Make friends, don't be distant. I personally propose that you let people call you by your first name rather than ma'am or sir as a lot Filipinos are accustomed to. It will break down invisible barriers like you never imagined.

Change Management
A strategic HR is accustomed to change. The organization that a Strategic HR supports goes through whatever HR related changes smoothly because HR knows change management. I personally recommend that HR looks at all the changes it is implementing using John Kotter's Change Management model as a guide. People are naturally resistant to change they do not understand and have no skill to apply with. Communicate heavily and equip people with the necessary skills. I wrote about the role of this model in my last post, please take time to read it.

Risk Management
A strategic HR is not risk averse, neither is it careless and hasty. Use a methodology for identifying the risks of all your HR actions and incorporate it in your change management plan.

Project Management
Guilty! is my plea and I'm sure a lot of other HR practitioners too on the accusation that our HR programs are almost always behind schedule. There is a lot of reasons (eherm! excuses) for the delay and a lot of them, we will point out to be external. A good project manager identifies all these and work on an implementation plan with all the variables in mind. We should really learn better project management folks!

Technology Savvy
The world of HR is very dynamic. A lot of changes and technological breakthroughs are happening. However, not a lot of them are fully appreciated and applied because a lot of us (I speak from experience) are uninterested. How many of us are using Balanced Score Card? 360 Degrees feedback, sounds familiar? HRIS, Intranet, paperless transactions, telecommuting, blogging, social networking,Online learning or webinars, CBT, blended learning... I can go on and on with new technologies for HR to manage human resources better. A lot of these information are available on the web, most of them free but there only few takers. Take them, run away with them.

If you are serious about giving relevant contribution to the success of your organization, keep all these in mind. And as I said if you have any additional competencies in mind, fire away! I'd like to hear it.


  1. Anonymous6:47 PM

    I love the reading. I am now researching to deepen my view on current HR principles. Thanks Ed! JVW

  2. Anonymous4:32 PM

    I just want to add my 2-cents to this article. Here it goes...

    Most people generally think HR as "just a support team". In most cases contribution of HR to the company's bottom line is unappreciated or unrecognized. I always believed that HR is the heart of the organization, contributing as much as and as importantly as any other organ of
    the body.

    I also agree that “HR should be seen as "pro-what's-right" rather than pro-management or pro-labor”. And to add, as “pro-what’s-just”.

    Development of HR systems should be viewed as a short-term investment rather than an additional and expendable cost, especially by local businesses. Truthfully, small business can thrive without a formal HR setup, but growth will bring more demands and challenges to the business. In as much as an entrepreneur develops strategy to improve his product and places measures to safeguard his finances, people management is also at stake in a growing company.

  3. Anonymous6:58 PM

    Hi Ed!

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Your articles are indeed very helpful.

    By the way, how can you relate Organizational Development (OD) to Strategic HRM?


  4. I think that Strategic HR is one that delves into OD by looking into how human resource management and development leads change and organizational improvement.


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