Human Resources

Why we believe in the strategic role of HR

Lydia Watson

Hiring and firing, payroll and perks – that’s what HR roles are made of. Right? If you’re a HR professional, then the assumption that “personnel administration” is all you do has probably come up once or twice – at dinner parties, if not in the office.

To be fair, when the field began in the 20’s that was the main focus. There was no such thing as digital signature software, or email – so things like employee contracts were a much more manual process. As the world changed, and technology took off, the strategic age of HR began to emerge… but is shaking that ‘red tape and retention’ reputation yet to happen?

Now that many processes can be automated, from document sending and signing to training new starters, it’s never been more crucial to prove the strategic value of internal HR.

The pressure of showing how HR adds value

In a data-driven, performance-focused age, every department feels the pressure to prove themselves. And with the risk of their administrative functions being outsourced, HR teams can particularly feel the fear. That all comes down to two things: perception, and providing value.

Under 20% of people working in HR are recognised for their strategic function – and that view of an entire department is one that has to be tackled head-on. Being strategic means helping to improve the organisation, and that means different things to different people. For senior teams, it’s about proving their work’s impact on costs, culture, and reputation – where for line managers, the focus is both providing that administrative support but engaging and developing their employees too.

Closely linking HR activities to organisational outcomes is key: instead of speaking about HR-specific innovations, point to the ways they relate to business priorities. Make HR relevant, not redundant, by focusing on strategic outcomes.

Strategic planning and HR planning: linking the processes

To prove that HR adds real value, first we need to understand what is meant by ‘value’. There’s two ways to think about it: “monetary and nonmonetary”. That is, activities directly linked to building revenue – like staff retention – to those less closely related, but still valid. These could be supporting and enabling sales teams, for example, or supporting overall organisational business goals.

And offering this kind of support would likely be welcome: 76% of leaders need help building their organisation’s strategy – and involving HR could boost engagement by 38%. That’s an added value that’s hard to argue with.

HR and strategy: why they go hand in hand

HR departments should be closely involved in strategic planning – not just as a value-adding exercise to validate the department, but because it just makes sense:

  • HR professionals are integral to employee engagement

It’s a fact: high-performing organisations are ones that focus on their people. And there’s no area of your organisation more people-first than Human Resources. For one, it’s in the name. So when it comes to driving employee engagement, it says to come from that team.

Driving employee engagement is a strategic goal. Engaged staff members take less sick days, they’re more productive and innovative, are better at customer service – all things closely linked to meeting your business outcomes. And HR professionals are instrumental in driving that.

  • HR professionals know their organisations inside-out

It’s a superpower, but one that’s underrated. HR professionals know their organisations inside out – their work touches every department, work closely with the SMT, and are privy to the motivations of new starters and the dissatisfaction of leavers. They know the strategy, capabilities, and (most importantly) the people – and that practical and personal knowledge can’t be replicated by consultant teams or digital admin systems.

How to be more strategic in HR

It should be clear by now: we’re strong believers in strategic HR. Professionals in that field have the unique balance of knowledge and capabilities to support senior teams and managers to reach organisational goals. But how?

  • Lean on data-led people analytics

Proving value is about delivering results. To be both convincing (to change perceptions) and effective (to know where and how to improve) that means relying on data. That means you can link your activities to the organisation’s KPIs. 78% of leaders rely on data to inform their strategy, so it’s a metric they’ll respond to.

  • Use Qlearsite’s Strategic Listening Platform

Collecting, handling, and interpreting data is a complex task, though – and not all HR professionals will have a data-led background. So they need the right tools. That’s why we created our Strategic Listening Platform, and employee feedback solutions.

Whether you’re dealing with 50 employees or 50,000, listening to them and understanding their needs is never simple. You’re not a computer – so endlessly doing back-to-back 121s will not only burn you out, you’ll also lack an objective understanding of where to focus.

Our advanced tech can read thousands of your employee’s written comments, and understand them all in context. Not only can it identify the positive or negative sentiment in every sentence, it also pulls out the common themes that people are discussing – whether childcare struggles, slow computers, or non-responsive managers. That’s data you can use to inform your HR strategies, linking to overall organisational aims. And that’s what we call providing value.

It’s time to start the conversation

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