HR strategy – Roadmap for orientation

human resource management

A comprehensive examination of strategic HR management is rarely carried out, especially in medium-sized companies. A combination of existing scientific and field-tested findings could change this. A planned study has set itself precisely this goal.

Globalization goes hand in hand with more complex framework conditions with which both managers and employees are confronted. Operational skills such as flexibility, reaction speed, learning ability as well as the implementation of working time and remuneration models according to requirements are decisive for the future viability of a company. Only organizations that can prepare and inspire their employees to implement their corporate strategy will be among the long-term winners in this scenario. This requires constant and proactive intervention by HR management, the realignment of sustainable HR processes and, above all, the assumption of greater corporate responsibility.

A strategically oriented HR management (SHRM) can generate a contribution to the company’s performance in the course of this. It includes HR strategies designed to meet business objectives – such as attracting, developing and retaining strategically relevant groups of employees – and aims to achieve positive effects on corporate success. Based on the HR function, an HR strategy defines fields of action for the future. As soon as corporate goals are derived from the overall strategy of the company, these HR strategic fields of action must contain in order to do justice to the human factor. Those responsible for HR must be able to make the significance of these fields of action clear to the management and thus the necessity of systematically investing resources. In essence, it is a matter of demonstrating the connection between current challenges and long-term, foresighted and future-oriented action. As a kind of “long-term roadmap”, the HR strategy provides clear orientation for employees. It is thus possible to work step by step along a coordinated line and systematically assemble individual modules to form a larger overall picture.

The meaningfulness of SHRM is no longer doubted by any HR expert. Still, there is often talk that the strategic orientation of personnel work, especially in medium-sized companies, is not yet sufficiently pronounced or is used rather strikingly by personnel (“My job is strategic!”). In most cases, the HR department remains imprisoned in the traditional HR fields (administrative tasks), which have developed into its own territories – sometimes intentionally or unintentionally.

Instead of HR positioning itself as a personnel strategist with farsightedness for future challenges by adapting external impulses, a colourful bouquet of partly quite modern HR services is offered, which, however, too often bypasses the expectations and needs of organisations and business managers. To put it in the words of Benedikt Hackl and Fabiola Gerpott: “HRM today, as a comparatively rigid functionary, is using yesterday’s instruments to design the flexible organizations of tomorrow”.

Little time and budget

There are various reasons for this conscious or unconscious neglect of SHRM in medium-sized businesses: for example, insufficient budgets, little time, a well-established focus on operational tasks, no backing or appreciation of HR by management, no representation of HR at top management level and unclear distribution of roles and understanding of roles in the HR function. While the relationship between SHRM and corporate performance in the North American region has been extensively researched and proven, a detailed analysis of the status quo and a definition of the necessary framework conditions for SHRM in the German-speaking context is still missing.


The seemingly constant change of markets, environmental influences and organisations is not in itself a new peculiarity. The associated upheavals in the HR function are also events that have occupied both scientists and practitioners since the introduction of the HRM function. What is new about the current situation, however, is the rapid pace of change, the far-reaching consequences for the organisation and areas of responsibility of companies and thus also for HR management, and the desire of many organisations to be able to act flexibly and flexibly.

Organizations and their HR areas that have the claim to a flexible SHRM are at least one step closer to this if the following list of selected framework conditions is suitable for them:

  • A well-functioning HR administration (including payroll accounting, time management, training administration) is guaranteed.
  • The HR area has sufficient capacity (operational activities often overlay strategic planning). Personnel managers have the right competences (skills, abilities and personality traits) as well as the corresponding know-how (e.g. entrepreneurial and future-oriented thinking, strategy methods, market and customer knowledge, knowledge of employees, analytical and implementation-oriented at the same time).
    HR is well networked within the company, connected to the management, enjoys trust and esteem, is involved (HR is also at the table at general management meetings, for example) and shows an active presence.
  • HR is a personnel strategist and acts as a sparring partner. HR supports line managers in achieving their goals, for example in their role as consultants and coaches, and is accepted by managers and informed about current projects. There is a joint development of strategic fields of action with clear operational benefits.
    HR can and wants to serve strategic topics, for example the positioning of change projects or the preparation of location decisions, with appropriate instruments. HR is geared to the needs of the organization and knows the company-specific challenges.
  • SHRM is understood and lived as an ongoing process: after the strategy is before the strategy! The HR strategy is regularly coordinated with the corporate strategy – at the latest at the rhythm of the corporate strategy – for example in regular strategy meetings in which the current measures are questioned in a stakeholder analysis and, if necessary, adapted to new challenges. Short and manageable planning horizons are set.
  • Especially for strategically relevant employee groups, HRM concepts and processes conforming to the strategy are and will be installed (for example, managers will be trained in development programs in order to anchor an agile leadership and learning culture in the company). HR measures are documented in writing and visually and transferred to project management for implementation.
  • KPI systems and monitoring processes are installed. The benefit contribution of HR measures can thus be measured. Cost savings are achieved, for example, in personnel selection through the use of valid selection instruments.
    With its instruments and measures, HR ensures that the organization can adapt to new challenges: agile concepts such as Scrum or agile “on-the-job” personnel development.

These framework conditions for SHRM, which are suitable for every group of companies, are predominantly present in large companies or groups of companies. However, it is often only assumed that SHRM is actually lived. Because the “SHRM” label is modern and large companies simply have more budget available.

Published by Dave John

Decade of work experience in leadership consulting with strong focus on talent acquisition & assessment across different industries and geographies.

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