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Strategic Challenges for HR in 2021

In the 20th century, the role of HR has been redefined not just in terms of the work that HR does but also the way they accomplish it. With millennials taking over Human in human resources has taken the front seat. Earlier the role of HR was more of admin and operational with repetitive activities like processing salary and increments etc. However, in today’s time, these operational days to day tasks have been automated and the role of HR has been uplifted where ask is to deal with human emotions. Some bit of understanding and dealing with human emotions is also automated. For example, behaviour is a clear indicator of how anyone is feeling at any given time. Technology can convert and translate most human actions and behaviours to how a person is feeling at any given moment. This can be done with machines with an accuracy of almost 70-80%.

It is imperative that anyone who takes up the role of HR has to have a good Emotional Quotient. Human Resource cannot have an independent HR strategy. HR Strategy is always based and carved out of an organization’s strategy. In today’s time when AI is taking over most of the work, HR strategy will still depend on how digitally active, engaged, competitive, or mature the organization is.

The first step in building the HR Strategy for any organization is to be careful about the below factors.

Simplify – Overall HR is an intricate function. HR has so many different spheres that for anyone who doesn’t understand it, it becomes tough to navigate through it. In HR starting from HR organization to driving KPI’s at the employee level there are so many complications. However, any HR strategy when designed should be communicated simplistically so that it is easy for all to follow through

Focused– As mentioned above since HR has so many different spheres; there must be multiple priorities at any given time. However, while designing the HR strategy one should have a focused approach and clearly define the priorities

Solution-oriented– Being focused on a solution is a good approach, however, the solution first is not a good approach if we do not spend time on understanding the problem. What that means is we should first understand the problem or challenge and then understand the problem in the context of the business for which the strategy is being designed. Third, comes the solution and then the implementation.

Borrowed best practices-If HR plans to copy the best practices from any other organization, they should first check the internal context of the organization and culture and not implement any best practice. No good HR practice that has proved beneficial for one organization needs to prove to be the best one everywhere else too

Institutionalization: It is important to keep in mind which institution the organization belongs to the Management Central or People central. The HR strategy will be designed accordingly. The second step in building a robust HR strategy is to follow the below steps. The important thing in these steps is to move in this sequence only and not try to do one before the other.

Organization’s strategy: First & foremost step in making an HR Strategy is to understand what is organizations strategy

Organization’s purpose

HR should understand what the company’s purpose is before even moving to the first step in the strategy. The purpose of the organization always has an outward approach. What that means is the core purpose of any organization is always focused towards the customer/clients, as to what value does add or provide to our customer. So having a concrete understanding of and what value we give to our customers/clients will give us an understanding of why we exist.

Organization’s competitive advantage

There are so many business challenges any organization deals with. If we see in today’s time in the pandemic, consumer preference has changed or shifted many folds, consumer segments have changed, there is a major shift in consumer behaviour and simultaneously, keeping aside the pandemic challenges, the technology is changing and every process and industry has been disrupted by changing technology. With all of this, any HR professional needs to understand what the competitive advantage of the organization is that they are working with. In absence of this understanding, the HR strategy will be a complete failure. The competitive advantage of any organization is the basis of how HR will strategize to attract, develop & retain talent. One organization can be targeted at one thing they are best at and that becomes their competitive advantage like one organization can best at innovation and for other, the competitive advantage could be lower price or maybe faster access to the market.

Organization’s strategic challenge

It is of supreme importance to have a solid understanding of the strategic challenges that any organization has. Challenges could be in the form of bottleneck functions, retaining best & high potential employees, and building workforce diversity. HR should be clear on what are the strategic challenges of the organization because that will be another foundational stone to frame and carve out HR strategy

People strategy & challenges

Not just from an HR standpoint but from an organizational perspective also the most important assessment is People. HR is expected to own all people related strategies or challenges. Any challenge that impacts people or employees in an organization is a people’s challenge. People challenges could be sharing relevant knowledge across the organization, dealing with various generations, Identifying and leveraging people potential. Unless HR understands what are people-related challenges the strategy around that will not be effective.

Strategic HR priorities & approach

Once the organizational strategic challenges are identified, HR along with the leadership needs to frame a strategy on how to deal with it. Different challenges will have different approaches to deal with. For example, if the organization is facing a challenge around Talent Acquisition, the approach or strategy will be around employer branding, candidate sourcing & selection, etc.

It is irrefutable that without following the flow of the foundational steps the HR strategy cannot be successful. One more important underpinning fact is that HR strategy can be laid and can be proved effective only when it is carved out based on the culture or structure of the organization. 

Any organization has a different culture and structure. One strategy cannot fit all even for the same challenge in the same industry. For any strategy, in the embryonic stage, it needs to imbibe the organization’s culture & strategy. If this is missed then no matter how strong the strategy is, it will not relate to the organization’s culture and hence will not be effective.

A cohesive HR strategy is where the strategy is in line with not only organizations strategy but also with organizations culture & structure which differs from one organization to the other.

Bharati Sharma is an HR professional with 15+years of experience in Employee experience, Talent management, HR Strategy, culture & motivation, and various other disciplines of HR. She have experience of working with dissimilar organizations like Genpact, Wipro BPO & Okaya Infocom. She has worked in various roles of HR from Talent acquisition to HRBP and HR Lead to HR Leader.

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