HR function is both strategic and operational

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I was surprised to hear a senior HR Manager suggesting to a company CEO that all he needs is an HR Manager to look after HR operations. The CEO was advised that he does not need a strategic thinking HR Director. This is often a short-sighted occurrence in HR and other company functions.

We often think that HR is simply an operational or administrative function in an organization. A finely tuned HR Operations can make a big difference in the work environment of a company. I would agree to.

However, as leaders, we need to take care of the business both today and prepare it for a better future. HR plays a critical role in preparing the company for a better future. HR, in its best form, is a strategic business partner that is part of the strategic planning process.

Let me break it down into simple steps:
1. A business strategy will always have additional two components. It will have a change management component since strategic initiatives will always incur a change in the company. Second, strategic initiatives will most likely have an HR component.
2. The strategically thinking HR Director can extract the HR requirements from a business strategy. This is then turned into HR initiatives or projects that are aligned to the respective business projects.
3. These HR projects are then implemented together with the respective business projects.

People related questions that usually arise in business strategies are:
1. What competencies do we need to develop or acquire for the new strategies?
2. What competencies do we need to look for in hiring people?
3. What changes to our goal-setting process do we need to consider with the new strategies?
4. What do we do with team members who are not able to take on the new roles or competencies required by the business strategy?
5. How does a successful adaptation to the new role affect people’s career paths and promotability?
6. What communication activities do we need to roll-out to explain the people related initiatives resulting from the business strategy?

There are a number of people related activities that are needed to be taken into consideration when mapping business strategies to the people agenda.

That is one side of the HR Strategic thinking coin. The second side is what best HR practices are currently being used by successful companies? How can we adapt them to suit our company culture and status quo? How do we roll out the customized version? How do we time the roll-out and who is accountable for the different components of the project?

HR Operations takes a look at the current HR Work. At best, it also tries to improve the current way of work in HR. HR Operations looks after today’s HR activities.

HR Strategic thinking takes into account aligning the people agenda to the business strategy. It also seeks to implement best HR management practices in the workplace. HR Strategy looks after HR and the business in the near future.

Both HR Operations and HR Strategic thinking is needed for a successful business.

You can listen to the podcast version of this article by clicking here (

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