In response to a Nov. 28 news analysis that appeared on HREOnlineTM entitled "Follow the Leaders," if HR leaders really want to have HR connect with the company's business strategies, there is a way to do it. But you'll have to change your HR hat into a business one.
The first step is to have a lengthy meeting with your chief financial officer to understand the key numbers in (a) the company's latest income statement, cash flow and balance sheet and (b) the company's current financial priorities. Next, meet with the chief operations officer to understand the key operating priorities of each major division or group. Thirdly, meet with the CEO to clarify the business strategy for the company and each of its divisions or groups.
Now, you can try connecting the company's business strategy/priorities to your HR resources, recognizing that you may have to realign them. The examples below illustrate this connection.
Priority: Improve earnings per share and increase cash flow by specificed numbers.
HR Response: 1. With financial management, implement a cost control/productivity improvement workshop to identify potential profit-improvement opportunities. 2. With inventory and manufacturing management, implement an inventory reduction workshop to identify items that can be thrown out, reduced or replaced by less-costly items.
Priority: Improve the market share of the company's main product line by a certain percent by acquiring a business that utilizes a new technology the company currently does not have.
HR Response: 1. Develop a plan to support the new business regarding recruitment, salary and management-incentive compensation, sales-incentive compensation, technical development, performance appraisal, etc. 2. Develop the knowledge database to evaluate due-diligence data on each potential acquisition from an HR perspective.
Priority: Develop about 100 strong business-unit executives who possess sound general-management skills and can operate large business units.
HR Response: 1. With a top-tier business school, develop an executive-management-education seminar. 2. Enhance the succession-planning program to ensure that all succession candidates have an annual personalized development plan that is approved by the CEO and COO. 3. Update the company's executive-compensation strategy for stock, incentive compensation and salary.
Priority: Improve the company's product-quality image in the marketplace.
HR Response: 1. Work with engineering and manufacturing to re-engineer quality-related processes in the product-design cycle. 2. Help install a quantitative set of quality metrics to accurately measure quality against a set of key industry metrics. Train all management and technical personnel.
Priority: Increase sales revenue for product "X" by 15 percent through the introduction of new technology.
HR Response: 1. Update the product's sales-incentive plan while getting the input of sales managers beforehand. 2. Assess the competency level of all sales personnel in the new technology and retrain as needed. 3. Assess existing recruiting sources and identify new ones.
Priority: Reduce the time-to-market of product "Y" by 25 percent to exceed current industry standards.
HR Response: 1. With engineering and marketing management, implement several task forces to re-engineer the entire design and launch cycle, and streamline the process while synchronizing with key quality and manufacturing checkpoints. 2. Retrain management personnel on the key changes before implementation.
Each HR leader will have to determine if he or she wants to accept the challenge of connecting with the company's business strategy, thereby bringing HR into its operational mainstream, or just remain an administrative afterthought.
Jack P. Bucalo