Across the United States and around the world, human resources professionals have taken up the banner of a powerful concept: Strategic HR. But in reality, initiatives stall. Mission statements don't equate to action. Strategic thinking doesn't necessarily come naturally even to seasoned HR pros. With so much HR effort being expended just to manage hiring compliance and employee relations, there seems to be little time left for strategy. 

To define "strategic HR," define what it isn't

Connect-June2011-2-meeting.jpgAcross the United States and around the world, human resources professionals have taken up the banner of a powerful concept: Strategic HR. But in reality, initiatives stall. Mission statements don't equate to action. Strategic thinking doesn't necessarily come naturally even to seasoned HR pros. With so much HR effort being expended just to manage hiring compliance and employee relations, there seems to be little time left for strategy.

One Ceridian expert suggests a new approach: Define what HR isn't. "Sometimes it's easier to define the negative attributes of something instead of the positive end state," says Jennifer Menke, Ceridian senior vice president of Quality and Service Operations. "Try looking beyond the traditional definitions of HR at your company. Consider a new perspective."

Honestly discuss stereotypes about HR
Menke suggests that HR teams define and document the common stereotypes about HR, both universally and at the company. This helps you define what HR isn't.

Menke gives examples of stereotypes. "Siloed," she says, "is a common misconception -- that HR is insular and unconnected to the business. Perhaps your HR team is seen as rule enforcers, as black-and-white thinkers. Perhaps employees perceive that HR protects only the company while managers perceive that HR protects only the employee. Have an open, honest discussion about the stereotypes that exist -- because that helps everyone begin to think about what HR isn't. And that leads to ways that they can redefine the organizational role of HR."

Redefining the organizational role of HR
"Redefining the role of HR is imperative if HR professionals are to demonstrate value," Menke says. "And in today's economy, the demonstration of value is more important than ever. It has never been easy to quantify the value a great HR resource brings to an organization by way of a direct correlation, and much of the HR effort that is expended is done to mitigate risk. But understand that business expectations have changed.

"Your colleagues expect a business partner. They want a team that understands the company's business model. So learn the challenges, processes and strengths of your organization. That makes it easier to align people strategies to business initiatives. And it serves another purpose by opening up career paths for HR professionals. Because if you're a solid performer who understands the business and the people, every functional area in your company will have an interest in your talent. So ask questions. Earn that seat at the table for broad strategic business conversations, not just 'people' conversations."

Strengthen the perceptions of HR's contributions
"To articulate and demonstrate the value of HR," Menke says, "Ask yourself, 'How do we use metrics to support business initiatives? Other teams in our company are using metrics; we should, too.' Take action to form good relationships with partners. It's all about how you draw the connection between what you're doing and the overall goals of the business: list those out, talk about it, refine it and run it past your stakeholders."

Menke recommends that HR professionals leverage some of the new business intelligence and human capital management solutions that are available to help them develop, reposition and redefine their strategic role. "Workforce optimization is always a good place to start," Menke says. "After all, in most organizations, the largest corporate expense is people. And the greatest corporate asset is also people. Anytime you can help optimize the time your people spend on valued-added activity, that will be a win."

"The big challenge," Menke says, is that "you must continue to execute tactical initiatives well. Strategy is all about finding root causes of problems and tackling them. So free up the time to be more strategic -- whether you do that by using automation, by training managers or by eliminating nonvalue added work. Think about every HR process just like an operations person would. That's the only way a busy HR professional can free up time for important strategic work."

Find the time and the tools
How do successful HR professionals find the time to become more strategic? They use evidence-based human capital management that frees up valuable hours and gives them the data and insight they need to provide proactive direction.

Learn more about Ceridian Dayforce Workforce Management. This complete, integrated workforce planning and labor-scheduling tool saves time, cuts costs and aligns employee performance with your company's business goals.