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Human Resources Sustainable Strategic Planning: Better Focus on People, Less on Programs

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“HR continues to be about relationships rather than programs and a deep understanding of the business. The key skill set for future HR people will be how to effectively understand and manage the impact of mergers, demergers and globalization. These changes have profound impact in the workplace…”
 — Jenny Arwas, MBE, Former Director, BT Group Functions HRBT, November 2015

Recruitment, training, succession planning, conflict resolution: The management of human capital (HCM/HRM) is undoubtedly one of the more daunting time and emotional investments when it comes to operating any-sized company or organization. At times HRM can seem to dominate all other aspects of operations, and often make those involved wonder whether it’s all worth it. This is especially true since the returns on HR investment are difficult to accurately quantify.


It should come as no surprise that the income rate growth among companies that most care about and invest in HRM are consistently higher over time, in comparison with companies that don’t (to the tune of between 60 and 130 percent higher).

According to Keagan Kerr, vice president of corporate affairs and human resources for Coeur Mining Inc., “You’ll see more HR practitioners learning more about organizational effectiveness and culture and people because that’s what makes a difference in the organization.”

If you’re having some difficulty picturing more specifically what “investing more in your people, and less in programs” looks like, here are a few guidelines to help you focus.

  1. Develop a plan to develop a sustainable HRM plan
    If you really want to improve the ways and means by which you most effectively manage your human capital and their individual and collective talent, you need to establish a long-term plan, which includes having those in leadership positions to develop HR management skills and experience. Don’t get gun shy about developing an effective HR strategy because of feeling overwhelmed – research and study the best practice methods used by similar companies to yours within your industry. Start out with one area of your HR strategy and then slowly add on as things get rolling.  Solid HRM strategies are not just a checklist afterthought, they are a non-negotiable for success in business today.  Hire an HR firm, if necessary, to work with you to get things rolling.
  2. Begin with an end in mind: Develop your HRM operations and planning as far as seven to ten years out
    Set an ambitious seven-to-ten-year time horizon for your HRM planning. This type of HRM planning needs that kind of time to survive economic, industry, and legislative changes that may arise, to say nothing of restrategizing that may come from leadership, companywide crises, and advances in technology. It’s reasonable to assume that it takes at least seven years for leadership to install, gestate, tinker with, improve, and reap the benefits of HRM plans and policies, to eliminate unproductive and ineffective approaches, and to hire the next generation of company leaders. It can also take that long for a new foundation of trust to be developed (or rebuilt) between employees and leadership.
  3. Start small and focus on the basics
    Anyone can dramatically improve whatever it is that they do best, by focusing on doing the basics better – and effectively managing human resources in an organization is no different. Department by department, start going through all the HRM-related activities and motions with real focus and intent. Research has shown that several such procedures (recruitment, training, compensation, job definition, succession planning, etc.) are performed hurriedly and far less than adequately.
  4. Constantly be looking to nurture commitment, build consensus, and foster mutual understanding
    Human (and organizational) nature tends toward a pull in the direction of disconnect and alienation, without conscientious and consistent efforts to curb this dynamic. If leadership continuously fails to listen, fails to explain, fails to anticipate problems, fails to communicate expectations, and fails to approach HRM proactively, employees will ultimately drift away. A rebound from a disconnected workforce would be difficult, at best, if not impossible. Leadership can indeed work with HR to nurture and develop team that can – and will be willing to – meet and exceed the organization’s performance needs.
  5. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time – “We’ll work on it…”
    Having an expanded time horizon allows you and your HR team to develop a paradigm, a unique philosophy, as well as specific objectives, and a tried and proven overall strategic approach. Human resources strategic planning still invokes some degree of mystery when it comes to being able to know how to do and predict for everything, and it may take a while to get up to speed, but it’s far better to get going now than to wait until you can formulate the perfect scientific approach – don’t be afraid to experiment, evaluate and improve as you go.

Human Resources is a huge investment in resources, but it pays off, especially when you focus more on your people and less on your processes.  Do your homework, and if necessary, call in some expertise.

How is your HRM strategic planning looking these days?  We’d love to hear more from you about what’s working best!  Drop us a line!

— Jonathan W. Crowell