In my HR career, I have found us to be a very reactive bunch. We tend to tackle whatever is in front of us or on fire with little thought to what’s ahead. I don’t think this is a deliberate action, but more a coping mechanism. Over the years HR has changed. As more and different responsibility was added, we had to tackle whatever was coming at us in the moment and didn’t have time to think about what was happening next month or even tomorrow for that matter. Now as all HR professionals are becoming more comfortable in their role, we have more time to think ahead and, dare I say it, actually work on developing HR strategy.
HR strategy is a tricky thing. Tricky because it is easy to focus on things that don’t actually matter. Tricky because it has to be flexible. Tricky because it usually has to happen on a limited budget and with limited resources. I’m sure that last sentence resonated. The lack of budget and limited resources, especially with our audience, stifles many ideas in the HR planning process.
But it doesn’t have to.
We believe that small businesses can do anything big businesses can do, you simply have to know how to scale. But even the best execution begins with a plan. Here is a how we take our clients through their new year HR planning process.
Our human resource planning process breaks HR down into three major components: compliance, recruiting and strategic initiatives. This is how we break out our services to our clients and have found it to be the most effective way to look at individual components of HR and then plan around each of them.
Whenever we are working with a startup or small business, the first thing we want to get in order is the compliance piece. Compliance covers all things legally required of employers as well as foundational aspects of human resources. We start with our HR Audit to see where there may be gaps we need to fill quickly.
We believe that HR audits should be conducted on a regular basis, but at a minimum, whenever the HR lead changes hands which is why we always do it with new clients. The great thing about the audit is that it can be used to easily set goals for the upcoming year around any compliance issues that fall into one of these categories:
Missing Altogether – if there is anything uncovered during an HR Audit that isn’t covered, it should be put as priority one on the goal list.
Could Be More Buttoned Up – most HR teams have convoluted and confusing processes that haven’t been changed because “that’s the way it’s always been”. When conducting the HR Audit professionals should not only be asking if something is being handled, but also, could it be handled better?
Could Better Leverage Technology – a large component of every HR strategic plan should include adding or better leveraging technology. With the vast array of subscription based software and technology companies focusing in the small business space, there is little excuse for any HR department to not be leveraging technology at some level. Further, we find that many outfits have software but aren’t using it effectively, leaving very helpful features unused.
To set goals around HR Compliance, HR leaders should ask themselves is the particular compliance area in place, is it working as it should, could it be better and is there any technology that we could leverage to make it flow more freely. So many HR Department of One’s find themselves stuck in the weeds and it is often this compliance area that has them there. This can run like a well-oiled machine with the right focus on getting it right.
A large component of human resource planning focuses on recruiting. I have written about our workforce planning process before and will be revisiting it in more detail in February. An effective recruiting strategy and therefore overall HR strategy is reliant upon how well a group goes through a workforce planning process. We know that in small businesses, it is a necessary process. Once you know what positions are likely to be open in 2018, you can then revisit what has worked for you in the past, and plan to do more, as well as areas you know you need to move into more, such as social recruiting.
To set goals around recruiting, HR leaders need to know the answer to what positions will be open, what positions have we struggled with in the past, what recruiting methods have we had great success with and what area do we need to at least dip our toe in?
Strategic is a word we throw around a lot in HR. We want to be more strategic or be given the opportunity to be more strategic. I contend that we don’t need permission and “being strategic” isn’t something you are, but something you do.
I consider strategic initiatives to be those things that are not required by law but make the workforce better. This would include things such as leadership development programs, on-boarding programs, employer branding or social recruiting initiatives and so on. It is anything that raises the level of HR service and helps better establish and manage employee performance goals and objectives.
To set goals around strategic initiatives, leaders should ask themselves in what areas they struggled with the most in previous years. Was it in performance management? This could indicate a need for a better performance management process or even leadership training. Did the company struggle with getting new hires up to speed? Maybe an on-boarding process is in order.
The thing about strategic initiatives is that they shouldn’t be based on what would be nice to have or what may make the leader’s life easier, but what the employee base actually needs. Many times the answer lies in some form of a more effective process, more employee training or both.
Once goals are established in each of these three areas, an overall HR strategy can be developed. This strategy will be a guide post for all projects throughout the year. Every new initiative should be helping the HR team, and therefore the company, meet its overall objective. It is hard to know how effective HR is or has been without these goals. Of course they may shift throughout the year as business changes, but creating an overall plan early on, allows leaders to focus their HR efforts and get ahead of the curve instead of being run over by it.
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