Posted on July 20, 2017

Expert Round-Up: How Can HR Pros Be Seen as More Strategic?

Human resource professionals today are feeling the pressure to be more strategic. Many organizations still treat HR as a transactional, tactical department that does not add much value, yet HR has a lot of expertise to offer. How can HR professionals take their places at the executive table? We polled a few HR experts for their insights.

Susan Heathfield, Author of HumanResources.about.com

The first step HR professionals can take to be seen as strategic is to develop greater business acumen, or learning to talk the talk. “They need to be able to tie recommendations, people programs, and recognition (including pay) to the goals of the business,” says Susan. “They need to be able to talk in language that other company leaders use when they make recommendations.”
HR professionals have much to contribute about issues such as increasing employee productivity, contribution and engagement—but they must explain why it matters to the business and how it can be achieved.

Suzanne Lucas, Author of the Evil HR Lady blog

For Suzanne, it all comes down to talent. She puts it simply: “Good people make good businesses.” For HR to truly become more strategic, they need to put time and energy towards bringing great people into the organization, keeping them there and developing their potential.

Allison Flynn, Organizational Development Specialist at Paycor

Allison recommends that HR take on the role of the advisor. She suggests that HR pros “ask probing questions and get your business partners thinking about how their business decisions will impact the actual people in the roles.”

She also strongly believes in tying numbers to the big picture. “Present the metrics and the impact of those metrics,” she recommends. “Help your business understand the ‘why’ behind the metrics. How do the people metrics tie to the business metrics? For example, how does turnover affect customer satisfaction?”

Erik Smetana, Author of the HR Field Guide blog

According to Erik, HR professionals are often perceived as not liking or understanding data. His advice is to: “Disrupt that way of thinking by developing HR analytics and systems that not only support your organization's operations but help to drive its strategy.” He encourages HR to embrace the Big Data trend by recognizing that “you can't have strong predictive analytics if you're not owning foundational items like metrics and benchmarking.”

Erik urges HR professionals to align their goals with the goals of the business. “Your toolbox should match what you want to build!” For instance, if the company’s goal is to be best-in-class, HR must embrace the technology they need to get there. “Great organizations need great HR leaders in tune with technology and how that technology can reduce transactions and build value.”

Lastly, Erik believes the HR profession is trending towards human capital management. As such, he claims that “It's not enough for HR to call itself a business partner; it needs to look at its processes, systems, ways of thinking, and where it rests in the organization in order to not just add value, but create value.”

Crowdsourced from Senior HR Business Leaders at Paycor:

To be a strategic partner, HR professionals must first learn the business. HR leaders at Paycor believe these are the key questions:

  • How is success measured?
  • How does it make money?
  • How do the business units work together and/or rely on one another?
  • What are the challenges?
  • How does the external market impact internal decisions and
  • strategy?
  • What are the critical positions?
  • How do they impact the bottom line?

Next, HR professionals should focus on building relationships throughout the business, again asking themselves a series of questions:

  • What's important to leaders?
  • What's going well for managers/leaders and associates?
  • What are their challenges?
  • How do they make decisions and why?

Lastly, HR pros must seek to understand, form a point of view and be able to suggest solutions. By being able to answer all of the questions above, HR starts to form answers and get an understanding for how to drive the organization forward.


Looking for more tips on becoming more strategic and making a bigger impact on your organization? Check out our whitepaper, The HR Pro’s Guide: 5 Ways to Make an Impact at Work.


Being a featured expert in this post does not necessarily represent an endorsement of Paycor and our products. This content is provided for informational purposes only.