HR MANAGEMENT HR Strategies Counter – a tight employment market

Ask yourself, would you consider marketing product or service in competitive market place without well-defined marketing strategy? Why then, would you consider employing and managing people in tough employment market without an equally well-defined human resource strategy?
The simple answer, according to Christchurch-based Pivot director Philippa Youngman is, you wouldn’t. “A well-conceived HR strategy is critical any time but particularly when the employment market is tight,” she says. When organisations can’t immediately source the individuals they need it is critical to keep “ideal” people and, if you do find the ones you want, “you need to understand what motivates them, what their value proposition is and how your organisation can deliver to that value proposition”, adds Youngman.
Frances Tweedy and Cheryl Wright, partners in Auckland consultancy Human Resource Associates, agree. An effective HR strategy makes it more likely people will choose to join an organisation and then, when employees start checking their future options, they stay because the organisation meets their needs, they add.
Good HR strategies focus on five key elements according to Tweedy and Wright. They include:
* Aligning the strategy with the mission, purpose and strategic aims of the organisation;
* Ensuring that the strategy supports and helps people live the organisational values through appropriate and timely education, feedback and rewards. This creates and sustains the organisation’s desired culture;
* Focusing on high performance by defining the capabilities associated with it, setting expectations that people will perform and recognising and rewarding high performance. Don’t reward mediocrity or tolerate sub-standard performance;
* Defining and targeting identified talent groups and developing tactics to attract and retain people with critical skills, knowledge and attitudes;
* Fostering team members within an overall organisation development plan that provides for individual growth across the organisation without having to climb stepped hierarchy.
Youngman suggests good HR strategies also identify the financial and business indicators that measure the effectiveness of the strategy. “There must be clear link between business success and the people activities of the organisation,” she says. “HR [management] is not about just putting people in seats and paying them what the organisation can afford.”
According to Tweedy and Wright, strategy alignment ensures the people component implicit in the mission, purpose and strategic aims of the organisation is both visible and considered. It also ensures consistency in the way the organisation tries to achieve results by effectively enabling people to “participate and contribute”.
And values are important because they define the acceptable behaviour to create culture that supports achievement. “The more aligned an individual’s personal values are with the organisation’s values, the more likely it is that they will be satisfied with their job,” they explain.
Focusing on high performance rather than mediocrity enables the required key competencies to be established within the desired culture. And the way in which people are recognised and rewarded with an emphasis on expecting high performance should be consistent with the culture. The way this is developed should appeal to the people who are key to the organisation’s success.
In tight labour market organisations must be clear about the needs of the talent group and HR strategies establish policies and practices that appeal to this group. For example, in targeting young and mobile people there might be specific provisions that focus on allowing overseas experience and extended leave secondments, suggests Tweedy. Another example is strategy to retain older employees who are sandwiched between teenage children and elderly parents enabling flexibility of working hours or opportunities to work from home.
A holistic organisation development plan provides an indication of the key skills, knowledge and attitudes needed to achieve results now and in the future. “An effective HR strategy helps people to develop their overall potential, and not just on the required set of skills for their current task,” says Tweedy. “A holistic approach provides better understanding of other parts of the organisation and of the linkages that lead to more collaborative approach, often leading to people remaining longer with the organisation.”
So what are the commitments organisations need to make to deliver good HR strategy? “For start,” says Youngman “they need to bring the organisational values that are generally documented and displayed on the wall, to life. Behaviours that are inconsistent with those values should be dealt with. Leadership must be recognised and rewarded as the most important management skill, not technical skills.” And, she adds, organisations must commit to ongoing development of leaders and not assume that manager obtains these attributes by being handed management title.
Tweedy and Wright agree that commitment to people development is key part of an effective strategy that is designed to achieve results. And don’t cut back when things get tight. It is not, they say, “an optional extra”. “HR strategy is an integral part of the whole business with embedded strategies that are equally important such as the marketing strategy or the financial strategy.”
The most senior HR manager should be key member of the senior management team, should report to the CEO and be regarded as an “authoritative person” within the organisation.
Management can prove that an HR strategy delivers by understanding the business and financial measures of HR projects and activities and by putting measurement processes in place to track performance over time, says Youngman. Measures that link key performance indicators to return on investment (ROI) and the bottom line.
Tweedy and Wright suggest using tools like the Balanced Scorecard or Triple Bottom Line reporting to build key measurables in to all interventions to indicate ROI. Management should, they say, prepare measures prior to any initiative or when setting up strategies so that feedback is in-built and includes factors like performance improvement, sick leave, staff retention and so on. Measuring tools like staff surveys or other feedback help indicate trends over time.
To deliver an effective HR strategy management must deliver clarity, commitment and consistency, says Tweedy. It should provide common understanding of how to support the strategy, clarity in understanding what the strategy is and consistent commitment to the strategy which is demonstrated in everyday practice.
“Management must also provide the infrastructure to support the strategy through, for example, performance management systems, appropriate policies, recognition and reward systems and so on,” says Tweedy. All HR processes, policies and procedures should be seamless from first point of contact through to every aspect that aligns with and demonstrates the organisational values.
HR technologies are, says Youngman, critical to the process. “In the HR profession we have traditionally been great at developing policies and frameworks to assist in managing people. However, we have failed to leverage technology to make the implementation and process surrounding these policies easy to manage.”
Youngman thinks technology that assists with the work-flow processes around managing people and the assessment of data is critical to ensure consistent, accurate and timely management information. And she does not mean payroll or HRIS database; though these are important. New technologies allow workflow process management to integrate with these two data repositories to deliver meaningful information to managers when and where they need it.
Managers can waste too much time seeking information necessary to make effective decisions, according to Tweedy. Technology also helps to

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