first_img Comments are closed. Strategic thinking and planning has long been considered the holy grail ofeffective HR. Most HR professionals claim it to be a core part of theirfunction, and not open to discussion as a distinct specialism. Those working in a pure strategic role are few and far between. However, agrowing number of organisations are demanding a more commercial and strategicoutlook from their HR departments. Strategy and planning, suggests Debs Oldroyd, HR manager since July atWitwood Food Products in Banbury, Oxfordshire, should go hand in hand. In manyorganisations, HR is still perceived as little more than welfare andadministration. Having a strategic remit gives the HR function greater credibility, benefitsthe business, and makes HR integral to the success of the organisation, sheargues. “There are always going to be ad hoc issues that are going to come up,grievances and discipline and so on. Strategic thinking is about settingsystems and procedures so you are not just waiting for things to happen,”she says. According to Fiona Sellers of HR consultancy Courtenay, people often use thephrase “strategy” when they simply mean planning. Effective strategyis about pushing back the boundaries of the business – looking at coreobjectives and business drivers – and only then seeing what the HR function cando to help. If strategic or planning specialists are not already on the board, then theyshould at least be advising the board closely, she suggests. “They will have a very, very good relationship with the chief executiveand their opinions will be sought on the strategic direction of thebusiness,” she says. The type of people who fit the bill as HR planning or strategy specialiststend to be those who can show evidence of possessing a broader vision, afacility for evaluation and – often – an holistic approach, argues MarkKnapper, managing director of the recruitment consultancy Astralis Group. Strategic specialists will often use a “drilling down” techniqueto illustrate a wider strategic argument using HR best practice. Yet they mustalso be well grounded in the basics of effective HR so they can see thepractical implications of any change, adds Sellers. Knapper estimates such people should command a minimum of £50,000. Sellersgoes even higher, arguing the case for £80,000 rising to as much as £250,000.Even if the war for talent is less of an issue than it once was, people whobring an added dimension to a function will be at a premium, and salary levelstend to reflect that. “You are talking about the crème de la crème,” she says. They willmost likely be graduates with a postgraduate qualification such as an MBA orbusiness degree. They will often be able to show experience of working in avariety of sectors, giving them valuable exposure to a range of business modelsand ways of thinking, argues Knapper. When it comes to job prospects, the sky can be the limit. A successfulstrategist/planner can move into general management, be on the board and becomethe key third player in the business alongside the chief executive and financedirector. A strategic specialist will also inevitably end up sticking his or head outmore than an HR functionary. Working at a more senior level also means greaterstress, accountability and 24-hour availability than in a conventional HR role.”It can be very different from being part of a support function. Itshould be where all good, very senior HR people are operating,” saysSellers. Since joining Witwood Food Products, for instance, Oldroyd has put a raft ofnew policies in place, including sickness absence, induction, recruitment andselection and has redrafted the corporate handbook. Yet the key benefit of good strategic planning – changing your organisationfor the better – can also become a central frustration, she warns. It is vitalto remember change does not happen overnight. “I have to fight my cornerto be recognised, although I do have a lot of support from the managingdirector. It is no good jumping in with two flat feet,” she says. “You have to recognise that sometimes there are things that are moreimportant to the business than my concerns.” Case study: Kim ParishThe Northampton head office of Scottish & Newcastle Retail– the pubs division of Britain’s biggest brewer – used to be called “theprison” by its staff. Notorious for its poor design, lack of fresh air, vendingmachines that didn’t work and infestation of fleas, staff were not sorry to seethe back of it when the company decided it was time to move to new premises.But, unlike most such moves which are chiefly about unpackingboxes and berating the IT department when nothing works, HR director Kim Parishensured that strategic thinking played a key part in the changeover.”Rather than it just being a physical move, I wanted tomake it a move in behaviours and attitudes,” she says.Various metaphors were drawn up, designed around the idea of ajourney overseas. For the first half day of the move staff were not allowednear their desks, and had to attend a three hour workshop designed to buildteam morale and interaction. The idea was to encourage people to rid themselves of culturalbaggage and think afresh about where the company was going and their rolewithin it, she suggests.It is this kind of strategic thinking and planning that canhelp take HR to another dimension, and finally move it out of the welfare andbenefits ghetto. A good strategic HR specialist will, Parish says, ensure firstoff that they have the nuts and bolts of the function in place and workingefficiently. After all, no one is going to listen to your ideas if you can’tget your own backyard right.Once this is done, it’s a case of looking at the organisationas a whole, where the HR function fits within it, and where the HR strategy canmesh with the business or corporate strategy, she asserts.Scottish & Newcastle used to be like many blue-chips anddevelop its corporate strategy looking at the numbers, business growth, revenuegrowth and key markets, adding in areas such as HR and IT later. Now, saysParish, HR has been put at the centre of the corporate strategy. This year’s strategy will focus on people issues, particularlyareas such as inspiring service and centres of excellence, she says. “Thebig bit is going to be about culture,” she adds.Parish has been at S&N for 10 years and in the HRD postsince April. She puts down a key part of her progress to attaining an MBAwhich, she says, “gave me a good theoretical understanding of strategicmodels”.It also gave her the confidence and facility, to speak to, say,the marketing director, managing director or the finance director in a languagethat they understood.On top of the board meetings, HR plays a central part in themonthly strategic reviews, allowing her to ensure that the HR strategy ismoving hand-in-hand with the larger corporate picture.In the past, boards have often been notoriously short-sighted.But at a recent S&N review, half a day was spent discussing successionplanning. “It is about making sure you look at the long-term agenda,”she stresses. Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article HR specialisms: Strategy/planningOn 27 Nov 2001 in Personnel Todaylast_img read more