Make the shift from tactical to strategic business operations
by Magi Graziano
April 30, 2018

Human resource (HR) directors who work in small to midsized companies share a common frustration. Most of their time is spent running interference between faulty management practices and disgruntled or entitled employees and helping with superfluous administrative and office management functions—neither of which drives the business brand or fosters employee engagement.

Recent survey research indicates that over 60 percent of HR directors in small to midsized businesses report they spend at least 45 percent of their time putting out fires, rather than contributing to long-term, proactive and strategic initiatives that create positive momentum in their organizations.

Below is a list of best practices and methods for improvement to take your company’s HR functions from tactical and good to strategic and great. The following five steps can help demonstrate the value of HR as it contributes to your organization.

1. Start with Alignment

What is the overarching purpose of the HR role, and how does it enable company success? When business leaders and HR agree on the answer to this important question, it paves the way for making a real difference in how employees impact organizational success.

2. Create a Matrix

How much time is spent in each area of HR? What percentage of each month, week or day is spent in different areas of focus? Sit down with your team to determine exactly how much company time is dedicated to solving problems in crisis mode. In your company’s HR role(s), how much time is spent on administrative duties? How much is spent on talent management, recruitment, succession planning, organizational development and design, onboarding and proactively teaching and coaching managers and teams?

3. Weigh the Cost

Weigh the cost of outsourcing some HR tasks versus handling those nonstrategic functions within the company. Look at the opportunity cost of retaining responsibility for those functions that do not make or break business. Is the right solution to hire a junior- or administrative-level employee to oversee those administrative processes, or is it best to outsource those tasks, such as payroll, benefits, compensation, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) paperwork, etc.? Delegate the tasks that detract your focus on building the organization with the best employees and creating a winning brand and culture.

4. Self-Evaluate

Does the employee in your main HR role have the skills, beliefs and talent required to operate at a strategic level? What strengths do they possess that empower them in their role? What gaps are present in their mindset, attitude, beliefs and competencies that are likely to become barriers to success? Be honest with yourself about the personal and professional development they need to gain, and then assess whether they are actually willing to do the work.

5. Build a Game Plan

Create a 5-year vision detailing how HR will elevate and accelerate the achievement of the organization’s goals. Identify the organization’s top goals and determine what is needed from HR to enable those goals to be achieved. Get the company’s buy-in on your vision and the work that needs to be done. Once you confirm you are on the right track, make certain you address the gaps that need to be filled by identifying the immediate steps required to move forward. Once that is complete, build out the specifics of your 1-, 2- and 3-year plans.

Ultimately, transforming how HR operates takes courage and commitment. Evaluating what works and does not work, and then stepping into the commitment of changing it, takes the right employee with the right confidence in the role and the necessary persuasion skills to make it work.

These five steps are just the beginning of finding value in the way HR contributes to the strategic, long-term goals of your organization. Once you identify the weaknesses and remove the constraints, it is up to you to stay the course and make change happen.