Designing robust business– HRM strategies

Human Resource Management (HRM) is a totally strategic profession, make no mistake about this. A business cannot function completely without humans. Even with an increase in the use of robots, humans would still remain relevant because business is not solely an economic activity, it is a social one. Customers will still crave that human touch in the course of doing business. Bringing the best out of humans in the workplace requires efficient and effective management which is the very essence why human resource management should be taken seriously.

Some of my colleagues in the HRM profession believe that HRM is about the business and I agree with them but to some extent. I say to some extent because I am mindful of the fact that the profession is a robust strategy aimed at driving business objectives nonetheless I do not pitch tent totally with them because they subscribe to the somewhat narrow view of business held by their principals (i.e. their employers) – a view that considers profitmaking as the sole aim of business. I believe that business is not solely about making profits – it entails obligations to the government and responsibilities to the immediate community, the employees, clients, and of course, the business itself. It is broader than the narrow perspective held by many. A model organization strikes a fine balance among all the aforementioned areas. Business is different from hustling.

As earlier hinted, the strategic bent of HRM is a given. It is a coordinated approach to drive businesses in an optimal manner. There is no gainsaying that part of the overall corporate strategy should be an HRM strategy. In my opinion, a robust HRM strategy must take into consideration the industry and the organization.

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The HRM strategy must never lose sight of the industry that the company is embedded in. Such strategy must ensure that the company competes favourably with competitors in that space — better still, the strategy could be to dominate the industrial space. A simple way to go about this is to ensure that there is sufficient investment in talent attraction, development and retention.  This is very important because human resources (symbolic of knowledge, skills and abilities) are one of the resources residents in organizations that is not easily replicated or imitated by competitors. The HRM strategy must be sensitive and proactive (i.e. not reactive) in order for the company to stay above board – this strategy must factor in industrial trends in order for necessary predictions to be made which will in turn guide swift and tactical actions when necessary.

Also, the strategy should take into consideration the organization. Organizations are primarily about people. For the company to compete favourably in or dominate the industry, the people who harness the material resources and drive the processes must be sufficiently motivated and deeply engaged. There can be no profit without optimal performance. It is important to quickly mention that while taking into consideration the organization (during the design of the HRM strategy), the financial capacity of the organization must be kept in mind. At no point should expenses on human resource activities exceed the company’s revenue. It is crucial to state here that I left out customers from the mix because a properly crafted business objective (which is what the HRM strategy seeks to drive) should factor that in – that is, a good business objective presupposes an aim to meet customers’ needs because this is what brings in the revenue and of course, profit (when revenue exceeds operational, capital expenditures etc.).

Furthermore, a robust HRM strategy should be guided by core values so that execution of such a strategy further reinforces and strengthens the culture and ideals of the organization (progressive organisations understand this). The culture of the organization should not be compromised in the course of achieving corporate objectives. This is very important because organizational culture helps in shaping performance across board which has implications for achievement of corporate objectives.

For feasibility reasons, the HRM strategy should be considered at the inception of the design of objective(s) and strategy(ies) at the corporate level. This is to avoid situations where the HRM strategy would be beaten into shape to fit the existing strategy (which Execs already have a strong psychological attachment to). One of the implications of this is that it might result in a compromise of best practice. I would be remiss if I fail to stress the fact that strategy sessions yield best results when actors are broadminded, critical and practical. It is not about sentiments because one poorly planned and executed strategy could cost a company huge sums of money.

It is my considered opinion that all strategies (HRM strategies inclusive) should stay sensitive and amenable to change. They should be designed in ways that enable modifications in line with unforeseeable changes in the industry and organization. As we implement designed HRM strategies (through HRM functions/processes which they are mapped on), let us never lose sight of what business truly entails because this will determine whether our strategies are robust or simply narrow quick fixes that are not sustainable in the long run.



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