Getting to be Strategic in HR

January 1, 2020
Sridhar Ganesh

Human Capital Management ( HCM)  has been gaining usage and momentum in recent times – particularly in the Digital HR space. HCM is indeed HR as we know and practice. As we know, HR has traditionally evolved from the role of  Administration in an enterprise to managing various people functions such as recruitment, performance management, career planning ( rather rare in Organisations), compensation administration and training. However, over the last two decades or so the profession has indeed made many big strides and there is a growing sense of specialism in these areas, which is commanding good value for HR professionals. HR professionals are no longer just generalist HR practitioners but are gaining considerable stature and value in becoming “specialists” in these areas. Today an Employee Engagement specialist or an L&D professional is generally hard to find and if you do, they command a considerable premium and often difficult to afford! This development is good news for business as it now has talented professionals to lead and manage these functions well and thus deliver good value to both the employee and the business.

The not so good news though is the reality that often times HR is not seen as strategic and contributing to the strategic goals of the business. They seem to have remained operational in content and delivery. And that is the usual lament amongst business leaders. The big question, therefore,  for HR,  is how to play a strategic role?

In offering a response, let us first understand, the specific connotations of the word “strategy” as is being referred here. To me, strategic would mean making choices that lead to a distinct competitive advantage for the business. In this sense, HR of every business needs to know (and identify), what areas and actions if focused upon on the people side, could take the business to a position of advantage with its competitors. While this exercise needs to be undertaken specific to each business, we can offer or make suggestions of some areas that are generic to all businesses and will add to their competitive advantage. For example, Talent, the quality of people across the business and or specific to levels will be one. In an ever-increasing technology-centered world, skills of AI & ML are commanding a great premium for the reason that they add to a business’s competitive advantage. Another area would be the depth of Leadership pipeline as this would offer business, an ever available set of talent!  Another area that is gaining considerable attention is this whole area of “Culture” – shared behaviors based on shared beliefs! New-age companies such as Netflix or  Google are leveraging this dimension to stay ahead of the competition! As we started with strategy and its meaning to our context, these are the conscious choices that HR  can and must make.

Thus moving the focus from the transaction and the routine to areas or activities that will truly bring competitive advantage to a business will make HR and its leadership more strategic! It is about a mindset more than competence and skill!

About Author

Sridhar Ganesh
MD & CEO, Adrenalin eSystems Limited

Sridhar Ganesh is a seasoned HR professional and a thought leader with vast experience in various facets of HR management, at both operational and strategic levels. His interests are in the areas of Business Strategy, Leadership, and Coaching for Performance.