Roles in strategic HRM
THE STRATEGIC ROLE OF TOP MANAGEMENT
Top management is there to provide visionary leadership, define purposes and values and set the direction. It develops the overall business strategies and ensures that functional strategies for marketing, product/service development, customer service, operations, IT and HR are prepared and implemented in ways that provide sustained support to the achievement of business goals.
THE STRATEGIC ROLE OF THE HR DIRECTOR
HR directors have a key role in strategic HRM, especially if they are – as they should be – on the board or members of the top management team. They are there to envision how HR strategies can be integrated with the business strategy, to prepare strategic plans and to oversee their implementation. They should play a major part in organization development and change management and in the achievement of coherence in the different aspects of HR policy. HR directors who will most probably play a full strategic role as business partners are likely to be involved in business planning and the integration of human resource plans with business plans and will be well placed to exert influence on the way in which the enterprise is organized, managed and staffed – all with a view to helping it achieve its strategic objectives. Although professionally competent in HR techniques, their contribution and credibility will depend mainly on their business awareness and skills and their ability to play a full part as members of the top team.
The specific strategic roles of HR
The four specific strategic roles of HR as discussed below are:
1. Business partner – working alongside business colleagues to align HR and business strategy and manage human resources strategically;
2. Innovator – developing integrated HR strategies;
3. Change agent – the management of transformation and change;
4. Implementer – getting strategies into action.
The innovation role
A strategic approach to HRM will mean that HR specialists will innovate – they introduce new processes and procedures that they believe will increase organizational effectiveness. The need for innovation should be established by processes of analysis and diagnosis that identify the business need and the issues to be addressed. ‘Benchmarking’ can take place to identify ‘best practice’ as adopted by other organizations. But in the interests of achieving ‘best fit’ the innovation should meet the particular needs of the business, which are likely to differ from those of other ‘best practice’ organizations. It has to be demonstrable that the innovation is appropriate, beneficial and practical in the circumstances and can be implemented without too much difficulty in the shape of opposition from those affected by it or the unjustifiable use of resources – financial and the time of those involved. The danger, according to Marchington (1995), is that HR people may go in for ‘impression management’ – aiming to make an impact on senior managers and colleagues through publicizing high-profile innovations. HR specialists who aim to draw attention to themselves simply by promoting the latest flavour of the month, irrespective of its relevance or practicality, are falling into the trap that Drucker (1955), anticipating Marchington by 40 years, described as follows: ‘The constant worry of all HR administrators is their inability to prove that they are making a contribution to the enterprise. Their pre-occupation is with the search for a “gimmick” which will impress their management colleagues.’ As Marchington points out, the risk is that people believe ‘all can be improved by a wave of the magic wand and the slaying of a few evil characters along the way’. This facile assumption means that people can too readily devise elegant solutions that do not solve the problem because of the hazards encountered during implementation, for example indifference or open hostility. These have to be anticipated and catered for.
The change manager role
‘Organizations that successfully manage change are those that have integrated their human resource management policies with their strategies and the strategic change process’. Strategies involve change, and failures to implement strategies often arise because the changes involved have not been managed effectively. HR practitioners can play a major part in developing and implementing organizational change. They must pay particular attention to managing change when implementing HR initiatives. This means considering:
l who will be affected by the change;
l how they will react to it;
l barriers to implementation (eg resistance or indifference to change) and how they will be overcome;
l resource requirements for implementing change (these resources include the commitment and skill of those involved in the change as well as people, time and money);
l who is available to champion the change;
l how line managers and others will be involved in the change process, including the formulation as well as the implementation of changed policies;
l how the purpose and impact of change will be communicated to all concerned;
l what different skills and behaviours will be required and how they are to be developed;
l how the change process will be monitored;
l how the effectiveness of the change will be measured;
l what steps will be taken to evaluate the impact of change.