“The end of the year’s here, which means HR planning time again. Time for the same old problems to rear their ugly heads, HR having to change their plans at the last minute to react to business changes, drop last year’s priorities because they’re now out of date, build a new training programme from scratch, before the last one’s even had time to be assessed. Sound familiar?” Jan Hills of The Hills Consultancy explains how to plan businesss change to give HR credibility in 2007.
So why is it so difficult to put together a durable HR plan?
Businesses need to move faster than ever before, so it’s pretty difficult to plan a year ahead, let alone five. But if you don’t look to the future, you can’t plan, and you risk getting caught out when the business environment changes. You’ll become reactive rather than proactive– a difficult pattern to get out of.
An HR Business Partner’s strategic planning role is still relatively young, so it’s not always listened to at the top management table. If this role isn’t acknowledged, management will agree on an overall business plan without knowing whether the human resources are in place to implement it. If this happens, HR plans will always end up being reactionary.
And reactionary can often mean risky. Imagine a UK civil engineering company that decided to move operations to China without consulting HR about the implications. How would the company know it could even find enough English-speaking civil engineers there, let alone know how to recruit them?
HR planners often don’t connect with their client businesses. There’s still a tendency towards models, frameworks, and ready-made solutions. But retro-fitting these to a client’s business will never be truly effective. Last year, I worked with a retail company that had previously used a ready-made HR template. There were three problems: first, it was generic. It told them all the ‘right’ processes to follow, like developing good employee relations and training up necessary skills, but it didn’t tell them how to do it in their specific company environment. Secondly, there was no period of consultation before the template was applied, so the business didn’t buy in to it. Thirdly, because it was thought up and based on a business environment at a single moment in time, it was too rigid, and soon became dated.
Is there a better way?
There’s no quick fix, but there are some basic principles that can help HR plans work:
You’ll need to manage your clients’ expectations. But it shouldn’t be too difficult, as they’ll get a bespoke plan. It’ll also allow you to: