Key Steps to Become an HR Strategic Partner
Why do you need an HR strategy partner? When HR departments are not aligned with the company’s strategic goals, it is a wasted opportunity for both HR and senior leadership. CEOs expect their CHROs to be key players in the company’s overall strategy, but many CHROs fall short.
HR is uniquely positioned to impact company culture and employee engagement, two key performance indicators (KPIs). However, without a strategic HR partner, the impact of HR will be limited.
In other words, HR departments can have a major impact on a company’s success, but only if they are aligned with the company’s overall goals. When HR departments are not aligned, they miss out on opportunities to improve company culture and employee engagement, two key factors in business performance.
The bottom line, HR departments need to be strategic partners in order to make a real impact on the company. This means working with senior leadership to develop and implement HR programs that are aligned with the company’s overall goals.
What is an HR strategic partner?
An HR strategic partner is a human resources professional who works closely with business leaders to align HR initiatives with the company’s overall strategy and goals. They are responsible for developing and implementing HR programs and policies that support the business, and for ensuring that the company has the right talent in place to achieve its objectives.
In short, an HR strategic partner is a business-minded HR professional who helps the company achieve its goals through its people.
Here are some of the key responsibilities of an HR strategic partner:
- Develop and implement HR strategies that are aligned with the company’s overall business strategy and goals
- Advise business leaders on HR matters and how to best support their teams
- Develop and implement HR programs and policies that improve employee performance, engagement, and retention
- Attract and retain top talent
- Manage employee relations and resolve conflict
- Oversee compensation and benefits programs
- Make sure that all HR laws and regulations are followed
HR strategic partners play a critical role in the success of any organization. By helping companies to develop and implement effective HR strategies, they can help companies to improve their performance, profitability, and competitive advantage.
What is the difference between an HR manager & HR strategic partner?
The difference between an HR manager and an HR strategic partner is that an HR manager is responsible for the day-to-day administration and execution of HR policies and programs, while an HR strategic partner is responsible for developing and communicating the organization’s strategy and aligning it with the HR agenda.
An HR manager typically handles tasks such as payroll, recruiting, hiring, development, termination, and compliance. An HR strategic partner, on the other hand, focuses on strategic planning, problem solving, mentoring, coaching, and independent leadership. An HR strategic partner works with senior leadership to ensure that the organization’s human capital supports its business goals.
How to be an HR strategic partner?
Most HR professionals and organizations recognize the importance of being more strategic. However, knowing that you should do something is not the same as actually doing it.
It takes time to develop into an HR strategic partner. It will need an investment of time, new skills, and maybe new processes, as well as a new degree of trust with your business partners.
However, once you’ve been there, the rewards will far outweigh the effort you put in along the way.
Let’s look at the ways to become an HR strategic partner:
Understand your business:
- HR professionals cannot be effective in this role without a deep understanding of the company’s products, services, customers, and competitive landscape.
Here are some additional thoughts on how to build your business knowledge:
- Read industry publications and reports. This is an excellent approach to keep abreast of the most recent trends and advancements in your business.
- Talk to your customers. This is a great way to learn about their needs and expectations, and how your company can better serve them.
- Attend industry events and conferences. This is a great way to network with other professionals in your field and learn from their experiences.
- Take business courses or workshops. This is a great way to learn about specific business topics, such as finance, marketing, and operations.
- Once you have a good understanding of the business, you can start to develop HR strategies that are aligned with the company’s overall goals. You can also work with business leaders to identify and address their HR challenges.
- By taking the time to understand the business, HR strategic partners can play a vital role in the success of their organizations.
Make time for strategy by eliminating transactional tasks:
- Even if you can’t control the big picture of HR, you can still steer your own ship. There will always be pressing matters that demand your attention, but don’t let them distract you from what’s truly important.
- The Eisenhower Matrix is a powerful tool for avoiding the “urgency trap.” This framework, popularized by former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, divides tasks into four quadrants: urgent and important, urgent and unimportant, important and not urgent, and unimportant and not urgent.
- Your strategic HR work belongs in the “urgent and important” quadrant. This is the work that has a direct impact on the company’s bottom line and success.
- Use the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize your work and focus on the tasks that matter most. Delegate or eliminate unimportant tasks, and save less urgent but important tasks for later.
- Review your priorities regularly. Things change, so it’s important to make sure you’re still working on the most important tasks.
- By using the Eisenhower Matrix, you can ensure that you’re spending your time and energy wisely and that you’re making a significant contribution to the company.
Gathering and analyzing data:
- HR professionals must be able to use data to make informed decisions and drive results. This means being able to collect, analyze, and interpret data to inform both HR and business strategies and initiatives.
- It is important to align HR data with strategic imperatives and track progress against goals. This data can span all areas of HR and the business, such as talent acquisition, learning and development, employee engagement, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and retention/turnover.
- One way to organize and manage HR data is to use key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs are measurable values that track progress towards a specific goal. They can help strategic business partners drive decision-making, improve performance, and ensure value realization.
Here are some examples of HR KPIs:
- Time to hire
- Employee engagement scores
- Turnover rate
- Training completion rates
- Diversity metrics
By tracking and analyzing these KPIs, HR professionals can identify areas where improvement is needed and develop strategies to address them.
Here are some additional tips for using data to drive HR and business results:
Make sure you have the right data. Before you can start analyzing data, you need to make sure that you are collecting the right data. This means identifying the KPIs that are most important to your organization and ensuring that you have the data you need to track them.
Use data visualization tools. Data visualization tools can help you to make sense of complex data and identify trends and patterns. There are a variety of different data visualization tools available, so you can choose one that is right for your needs.
Share your findings with others. Once you have analyzed your data, it is important to share your findings with others. This could include sharing your findings with business leaders, HR colleagues, and employees. By sharing your findings, you can help to raise awareness of important HR issues and inform decision-making across the organization.
By using data effectively, HR professionals can play a vital role in helping their organizations achieve their goals.
Develop your strategic talents and competencies:
Becoming a strategic HR partner is a new challenge for many HR professionals. If you or your organization is trying to transform the way HR works to be more strategic, you will need to develop new skills and capabilities.
I recommend using the 70-20-10 approach to developing strategic HR capabilities:
- 70% experiential learning: This means learning by doing. Look for opportunities to work on strategic HR projects and initiatives.
- 20% social learning: This means learning from others. Talk to other HR professionals who are successfully working as strategic partners. Finding a mentor who will help you develop your skills.
- 10% formal training: This means taking courses and workshops on strategic HR.
You will not become a truly strategic HR partner by reading books alone. You need to get involved in hands-on experiences that stretch your strategic capabilities.
If your organization has an HR competency model, you can use it to identify the skills and competencies that you need to develop. If your organization does not have an HR competency model, think about the skills and competencies that are essential to success as a strategic HR partner in your organization.
Here are some additional tips for developing strategic HR capabilities:
- Become a business expert. Learn about your organization’s business strategy, products, and services. Understand the challenges that your organization is facing and the opportunities that it has.
- Develop your analytical skills. Discover how to gather, examine, and evaluate data. You can use this to spot trends, patterns, and business possibilities.
- Become a change leader. Learn how to lead and manage change. This includes being able to communicate effectively, build consensus, and overcome resistance.
- Develop your relationship-building skills. Build relationships with business leaders across the organization. This will help you to understand their needs and priorities and to develop HR strategies that support the business.
- By developing the necessary skills and capabilities, you can become a valuable strategic partner to your organization.
Here are Some of the skills required for an HR strategic partner:
Business acumen: An HR strategic partner should have a deep understanding of the organization’s vision, mission, goals, strategies, and challenges. They should also be aware of the external factors that affect the business, such as market trends, customer needs, competitors, and regulations. An HR strategic partner should be able to translate business objectives into HR initiatives and align them with the HR agenda
Strategic thinking: An HR strategic partner should be able to look at the big picture and anticipate the future needs and opportunities of the organization. They should be able to identify and prioritize the most critical issues and propose solutions that are innovative, feasible, and sustainable. An HR strategic partner should also be able to evaluate the impact and outcomes of their actions and adjust them accordingly
Data analysis: An HR strategic partner should be able to collect, interpret, and present data that supports decision-making and problem-solving. They should be able to use data to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of HR practices and programs, as well as to identify gaps and areas for improvement. An HR strategic partner should also be able to use data to communicate the value and contribution of HR to the business
Change management: An HR strategic partner should be able to lead and facilitate change in the organization. They should be able to assess the readiness and capacity of the organization and its stakeholders for change, and design and implement strategies that address their needs and concerns. An HR strategic partner should also be able to monitor and evaluate the progress and results of change initiatives and provide feedback and support.
Relationship building: An HR strategic partner should be able to establish and maintain trustful and collaborative relationships with senior leaders, line managers, employees, and other stakeholders. They should be able to influence, persuade, negotiate, and resolve conflicts effectively. An HR strategic partner should also be able to coach, mentor, and empower others to achieve their goals and potential.
These are some of the skills that an HR strategic partner needs to have in order to drive organizational performance and success. However, these skills are not exhaustive or fixed, as they may evolve over time depending on the changing needs and expectations of the business and the workforce. Therefore, an HR strategic partner should also have a growth mindset and a continuous learning attitude that enable them to adapt and improve their skills constantly.
Some of the benefits of being an HR strategic partner are:
- You can have a greater impact on the organization’s performance and success by aligning HR efforts and initiatives with the business goals and strategy
- You can collaborate with senior leaders and influence their decisions and actions regarding people management and development
- You can leverage your industry knowledge and market intelligence to offer recommendations and solutions that are innovative, feasible, and sustainable
- You can participate in long-term planning and problem-solving, and help shape the future direction and vision of the organization
- You can enhance your skills and competencies as a strategic advisor, mentor, coach, and leader
Some of the challenges of being an HR strategic partner are:
Balancing the strategic and operational aspects of HR: An HR strategic partner needs to have a clear vision of the organization’s goals and strategy and align the HR agenda accordingly. However, they also need to ensure that the HR policies and programs are executed effectively and efficiently and that the HR team is responsive to the needs and concerns of the employees and managers. This requires a high level of coordination, communication, and collaboration between the HR strategic partner, the HR department, and the senior leadership
Developing business acumen and credibility: An HR strategic partner needs to have a deep understanding of the business environment, the industry trends, the customer needs, the competitor’s actions, and the regulatory issues that affect the organization. They also need to be able to use data and analytics to support their decisions and recommendations and to measure the impact and outcomes of their initiatives. Moreover, they need to establish trust and respect with the senior leaders and other stakeholders and demonstrate their value and contribution to the business. This requires a continuous learning attitude, a proactive approach, and a strong communication skill
Leading and facilitating change: An HR strategic partner needs to be able to anticipate and respond to the changing needs and opportunities of the organization and to design and implement strategies that address them. They also need to be able to assess the readiness and capacity of the organization and its stakeholders for change and to provide feedback and support throughout the change process. Furthermore, they need to be able to monitor and evaluate the progress and results of the change initiatives and adjust them accordingly. This requires strategic thinking skills, problem-solving skill, relationship-building skills, and change management skill
In general, strategic HR may be extremely helpful in assisting businesses in achieving their goals and objectives. HR can contribute to the development of an engaged and productive workforce that is in line with the business objectives of the organization by working together with business executives.