By definition, strategic HR is managing HR in a way that supports the company’s long-term business goals and outcomes. This means going beyond the administrative duties HR has been known for and focusing on the overall business strategy. But did you know that everything an HR professional does can be strategic? Even those so-called administrative duties? It’s not a matter of what you’re doing, but how you’re doing it.
For example, onboarding is often viewed as merely an administrative duty that HR fulfills when a new hire starts the job. But many HR professionals have caught on to the fact that onboarding is an opportunity to improve retention, build personal relationships, and turn new hires into brand advocates. And HR software tools like employee self-onboarding make it easier to pull off these strategic initiatives.
Consider some of HR’s other tasks. Some HR professionals are thinking strategically with their ongoing trainings by focusing on employee development, as opposed to dwelling solely on company policies. Some are leveraging the time spent on benefits management as an opportunity to survey employees and learn their benefits preferences, and understand more fully what motivates them. And on and on it goes. As HR professionals embrace strategic HR, the time they save with the help of effective HR software enables them to approach everything they do strategically.
The question then becomes: What are the limits to strategic HR? Granted, processing payroll or making sure new hires get their company T-shirt can be pretty trivial, but you’d be surprised by how many things HR does that can be done with the company’s long-term goals in mind. To prove it, here are 5 unconventional ways to be strategic in HR:
1. Interview applicants. You can help employees reach their full potential long before they even begin working with you, when applicants come in for interviews. During the interview process, make it a priority to infuse your culture into the entire process. Make sure the applicants understand your culture and core values right away, and do everything you can to determine if they are a culture fit. This will help you hire the right people—perhaps the single most important long-term accomplishment any HR team can do for its company.
2. Bad reviews. Whether it be Glassdoor or some other company review site, there’s a decent chance you’ve received negative reviews (justifiably or not). While I don’t agree that there’s no such thing as bad publicity (ahem, Volkswagen), I do believe that bad reviews can be flipped upside down. Take bad reviews as an opportunity to invite people to get to know more about your company. For example, in response to a negative review about our company from an applicant, our HR team addressed their comments head-on (rather than ignoring it). Here’s the conclusion of their reply: “To get a true picture of BambooHR, apply! We’re hiring. You can also learn more about us all over the web, so look us up!” Haters gonna hate, but a little strategy can negate their efforts and grow your fan base.
3. Letting people go. There’s probably nothing you dislike doing more than this. You dread the conversation, the look on their face when you tell them it’s no longer working. All of it. But this doesn’t mean you can’t use the experience to help your company strategically. For starters, make sure to use exit interviews as an opportunity to gain valuable insights. Yes, you should probably take disgruntled employees feedback with a grain of salt, but sometimes departing employees will be more honest than they were before, knowing there will be no repercussions. The key is to formulate a list of useful questions to ask every outgoing employee. Over time, the data you compile should help you know what can be done (or at least to what experiments are worth trying) to improve your culture and retention rates.
4. Filling out “Verification of Employment” forms. Typically, we fill these forms out when employees are trying to get a loan. Assuming that’s the case, this means these employees are likely at a crucial stage of their careers. Whether they’re buying a home or upgrading to a minivan to find room for the new baby, money might be tight and they might be especially motivated to earn more money. These are things their managers need to be thinking about. If they’re close to being considered for a raise or promotion, you might want to consider expediting that process. Make sure their managers are taking advantage of these opportunities because if you don’t, another employer just might.
5. Everything. How’s that for vague? But really, almost everything can be strategic! For example, let’s say that one of your company values is to be environmentally conscious. Rather than stocking the fridge with water bottles, you could invest in a bottle filling station (like this one). Or maybe you have a company value that encourages collaboration. Next time you’re making new company swag, have a contest that gives everyone the opportunity to design a T-shirt or secondary logo. There is no detail so small that it’s not worth considering from a strategic perspective. Some tasks may forever remain trivial (“Hey, the faucet in the bathroom keeps leaking!”), but not nearly as many as you might think. So go out there and be strategic!