Strategic orientation and involvement of HR professionals

The most important resource of an organization is its employee. They supply the talent, skills and creativity and exert the effort and leadership that contribute to their organization towards achieving its short term and long term goals. HR professionals cannot survive in an increasingly changing business environment without regularly enhancing their knowledge and skill. Research studies highlighted some key personal and organizational factors that are contributing to the strategic orientation and involvement of HR professionals.

It depicts the interactional effects of personal factors as well as organizational factors in relation to the strategic orientation of HR Managers. There are two types of factors contributing to the strategic orientation of HR professionals: Personal factors and organizational factors.

Personal factors are related to the individual in focus and are within his or her influence and control. On the other hand, organizational factors relate to the decisions, styles and approaches prevailing in the institution the respective individual is working for. Let’s discuss them in detail.

(A) Personal Factors: There are four key personal factors (such as tacit knowledge, conceptual skills, business awareness and societal responsiveness) which may be discussed as under: 

(i)    Tacit knowledge is the knowledge gathered through experience in, and exposure to, the strategic decision making process which can be regarded as the “black box” of an individual. With regard to HR professionals, the wealth of experience and exposure they gathered, are of immense help for them to contribute to long term decision making.

(ii)    Conceptual skills are the envisioning and analytical skills needed for strategic decision making and developing long term plans. HR professionals equipped with conceptual skills are at an advantage, in contributing to the long term wellbeing of their organization.

(iii)    Business awareness is basically the understanding of the nature of business one’s organization is engaged in. It is a must for HR professionals in becoming strategically oriented.

When the HR role is perceived more as a ceremonial and

administrative rather than strategic one, then the end

result will be a high level of frustration among the competent HR

professionals paving the way towards seeking greener pastures

(iv)    Societal responsiveness can be viewed as the engagement in improving the quality of life of the employees and their families as well as the local community and society at large in the long run.

(B)    Organizational Factors: Among the organizational factors that emerged as contributors to the strategic orientation of HR professionals, there were three main ones. They can be stated as, the leader’s recognition of HR, conducive organizational environment, and performance orientation.

(i)    Leader’s recognition of HR highlights the level of emphasis paid on employee development. It is basically referred to as the understanding of the CEO on the importance of HR. When such a scenario prevails, it is a ready invitation for the HR professionals to be strategically oriented. 

(ii)    Conducive organizational environment is all about the organizational climate which is influential for HR manager to be strategically oriented, with openness in sharing information and encouragement for innovation. It refers to the values, rituals, practices that support employee’s development.

(iii)    Performance orientation refers to the amount of thrust and emphasis from the organization towards the achievement of set objectives. When the entire organization is on a measurement-mindset, it encourages the HR professional to be more strategically oriented. 

Available evidence shows that only a high level of presence of both personal and organizational factors ensures strategic orientation of and involvement of HR professionals. Competency deficit represents a scenario where the organization provides opportunity for the HR professional to get involved in the strategic decision making process, but he/she does not capitalize by moving head appropriately, as there are competency gaps in him/her.

It can be caused wrong person handling the job and obviously, not achieving desired results. On the other hand, opportunity deficit is a scenario where HR professional willing and able to become a strategic partner, but the organization does not provide necessary support. It can be caused by not having an enabling leadership, non-availability of a supportive climate and non-existence of a performance orientation in the organization.

When the HR role is perceived more as a ceremonial and administrative rather than strategic one, then the end result will be a high level of frustration among the competent HR professionals paving the way towards seeking greener pastures. 

Dr. Md. Abu Taher is Member, University Grants Commission of Bangladesh & Director, Board of Directors, Jibon Bima Corporation, Dhaka