As an HR leader, you have access to incredible insights that should be used to make better business decisions. Let’s say, for instance, that your office space is nearing capacity and your leadership team is scouting for a larger space to accommodate future growth. You know that your company plans to triple the size of your engineering team over the next few years, but that a shortage of engineers in your area is driving salaries up. 

You suggest that opening another office may be a better solution than expanding your current office space. You’ve identified a city near a college that produces great engineers. The cost of living is lower and there’s less competition, so the average salary is lower too. You’ve already started sourcing a solid talent pool, and know you can find many of the candidates you need there. You know there are some in-demand skills that are difficult to “buy,” so you identify current high-potential employees who can be developed over the next few years to cover the skills gap. You even account for average tenure and attrition to ensure your bases are covered. At the end of the day, this is a plan even your CFO can agree on.

Scenarios like this help you become a strategic advisor to other company leaders, so they come to you when they need to make important business decisions. As the expert in talent management, you bring a unique perspective that may not otherwise be considered. 

Building a more strategic HR function is essential to getting a seat at the table in 2020.

Why strategic HR matters

We’re in the midst of a talent shortage. The unemployment rate continues to trend downward, resting at 3.5 percent in November 2019. The demand for workers continues to outpace the supply of unemployed people to fill them, and companies must poach talent from their competitors in order to meet their business goals. Your candidates and employees have many opportunities available to them, which can:

  • decrease your offer acceptance rate
  • increase your time to fill
  • increase your cost per hire
  • increase your turnover rate
  • decrease your employee lifetime value

A strategic HR function can help you solve these challenges, while providing a unique perspective on other business challenges.

What’s standing in the way of strategic human resource planning?

An HCI report found that 90 percent of HR practitioners see an opportunity to be more strategic, but almost half (49 percent) haven’t figured out next steps. 

The biggest obstacle was a lack of resources. HR teams simply don’t have the people or the time to invest in strategic HR initiatives. Most are too bogged down in administrative HR tasks to dedicate time to anything but the here-and-now.

Other obstacles include:

  • lack of input on strategic decision making
  • lack of leadership buy-in or empowerment
  • lack of budget for professional development or technology to ease the way

Getting started with strategic HR

HCI’s report also found that teams getting started with strategic HR were focusing on:

  • changing processes and relationships
  • automating paperwork tasks to free up opportunities for development
  • hiring more people or developing existing staff
  • improving analytics and workforce planning

An important first step toward a strategic HR function is developing relationships with people in various business units. This ensures you can gather the insights you need to thoroughly understand the company and the challenges it faces, and provides a sounding board for potential solutions.

Streamlining processes, automating tasks, and hiring people can free up your time to focus on more strategic initiatives. Utilize your technology to its fullest potential, and stay abreast of new technology that could enable your team to become more strategic. For instance, an HRIS can help you streamline operations, from onboarding and offboarding to document management and time off requests.

Finally, make use of analytics to make data-driven decisions. For instance, you may find that your most productive employees are among those who take the most paid time off. Or that employees who receive frequent feedback are among the most engaged. These insights help you develop stronger people programs that will attract, retain, and engage your workforce.

Final thoughts on HR as a strategic partner

HR leaders are uniquely positioned to be strategic partners in their companies—because you know people. The most strategic HR leaders can marry qualitative insights with quantitative data to provide innovative solutions to business problems. The trick is to get past the manual, administrative tasks so you can focus on strategic initiatives that will help your company reach long-term business goals.

Sapling can help. From onboarding to offboarding, our People Operations platform automates administrative tasks so you can focus on growing your company’s most important asset: people.


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Strategic HR: How to Get a Seat at the Table in 2020