HR Leads Business

Apr 25, 2017 | Barry Lawrence, MBA, HRCI Staff Writer

HR Professionals: How to Become a Strategic Positioner

The demand for more business value from human resource management professionals includes greater emphasis on HR initiatives that drive customer, shareholder and other stakeholder goals. In addition to talent management imperatives, HR must be viewed as "Strategic Positioner" across organizational objectives, say researchers of a comprehensive study on HR competencies, detailed in a new book, Victory Through Organization.

HRCI® is a partner in the research to empirically define the HR competencies that most impact personal effectiveness and business performance. New results represent the seventh (2016) round of the HR competency study known as the HRCS. This is the fourth in a series of HRCI blogs about the research.

Attention HRCI credential holders! Read Victory Through Organization and receive three Business Credits toward recertification. This is a pre-approved activity (seminar) credit.

HR Must Adopt a 'Stakeholder View'

"To help HR professionals deliver value in business discussions, it is important to have a stakeholder view of HR," the researchers say. "Stakeholders are those who HR represents when involved in business discussions. Traditionally, HR professionals are employee advocates, but today they also serve line managers to deliver strategy, and they also serve the business by representing external customers, investors and the community."

Second only to being Credible Activists, being a Strategic Positioner is one of the nine most important emerging HR competencies a practitioner can have, according to the research.

HR must move beyond "knowing the business to being able to position the business to win in its marketplace," researchers note. To become a Strategic Positioner, the HR practitioner must be able to:

  • Master the language and flow of business. Finance, marketing, IT and other critical functions create the language of a business. "Because HR work affects all people in an organization, it crosses boundaries for all functional areas," researchers say.
  • Recognize and deliver strategy and sources of competitive advantage. The research identified strategic decision-making, fast change, infrastructure design and culture management as key elements of leading in HR as a Strategic Positioner. The Strategic Positioner in HR must help shape content strategy (where and how the organization competes and wins) and strategic unity within the organization (by involving key groups in the strategy creation process). The Strategic Positioner in HR must also help the organization mitigate risks such as uncertainty and ability to predict the future and variability in the range of different activities required.
  • Understand and co-create with external stakeholders. "HR professionals need to know the niche, the customers, competitors, suppliers, investors, etc., the researchers say. "There is a new focus on stakeholders. HR needs to know who they are, how to build relationships with them and utilize them to set criteria for hiring and promotion, performance management, training and development expectations, and leadership behaviors."
  • Anticipate and react to external business trends and context. This requires, of the HR practitioner, a deep understanding of the "context within which their organization operates." Factors include social, technological, economic, political, environmental and demographic trends that impact the business. Such knowledge of the external environment must be translated into internal actions.

The State of HR as Strategic Positioner

In discussions with HR leaders, researchers say they are seeing more HR professionals adopt the language and logic of business, and they believe this trend will continue.

"We also see more HR professionals embracing the realities of outside so that they can be more effective inside. We see, and the data confirms, Strategic Positioner as one of the most critical competency domains, and we believe it will continue to be an essential opportunity for growth in the HR profession in the coming years."

This is one of several HRCI blogs on the HRCS study and the new book, Victory Through Organization. In addition to learning about the nine emerging competencies for HR, read more about how HR roles have become more complex, the need to HR must navigate paradox, how to be viewed as a "HR as Strategic Positioner" and the importance of HR and credible activism.