How HR Executives Can Enhance Strategic Management Processes

I recently read an interview with Dr. Carol S. Dweck about her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The interview focuses on different mindsets that describe the ways you conceive of your own intelligence, abilities, and talents. Dr. Dweck outlines what she calls a “growth mindset” that describes individuals who believe that talent and intelligence are mere starting points. These people believe that “talents and abilities can be cultivated through dedication, effort, and education.” Dr. Dweck explains that most successful leaders have a prevalent growth mindset. They think creatively and feel energized when they can use the collective intelligence of a group. They see issues as a chance to learn and progress individually and as an organization.

I mention this interview and book as a poignant reminder about the role of HR within strategic management processes. HR executives should be growth mindset catalysts and amplify such thinking wherever they are involved. In many ways, HR executives can set the stage for the organization to realize the most meaningful change. They are the ones who work behind the scenes to ensure that the organization has the optimal environment and people engaging in al the right ways. Done correctly, the conscious structuring of the perfect environment can lead an organization to greater overall success.

Four Ways to Optimize Strategic Management Processes

Select Leaders with a Growth Mentality

One of the best ways HR executives can set the perfect stage is to get the right players involved through good leadership selection and coaching. Again citing Dr. Dweck, you need leaders who not only have the right qualifications but also have a “growth mentality.” How do they deal with and perceive problems? Are they making decisions thinking of the long term potential or quick fixes? HR executives should select leaders who welcome challenges, and even failures, as chances to learn and improve. This will help the organization weather difficult storms and thrive when the going gets tough.

Ask the Right Questions

Another way to create a perfect environment is to foster the right kinds of discussions. HR executives can drive this effort by asking probing questions and challenging the assumptions of the group. They should encourage members of the team to think outside of their comfortable norms and instigate growth.

In order to improve the quality of questions, HR executives can gain greater context by becoming more knowledgeable business people. They should understand all dimensions of the business, including how it makes money, the strategy and the company’s finances. They should also develop a greater marketplace focus and understand the broader environment in which their company is operating. By understanding the ins and outs of the business and market, HR executives become thought partners and trusted advisors who can help leaders orchestrate strategy and organization alignment efforts.

Build an Effective HR Department

Perhaps one of the most significant ways to create a perfect environment is to do a little housekeeping within HR. If your HR department is not delivering on basic expectations, has a credibility gap, lacks talent, has limited systems capabilities, or doesn’t foster a growth mentality internally, it will be difficult to advocate for those changes in other areas of the business. You want to ensure that your own function is disciplined and credible before expecting it to have an influence in other areas of the organization.

As HR executives seek to improve their organization’s alignment, it is often helpful to get outside help. I often hear HR groups say that their culture is too strong and that they don’t want to dilute it with outside thinking. While this may be partly true, it can be taken too far. I have seen companies cut off customer requests and the best thinking in their industry all in the name of cultural maintenance. HR executives must find a balance of injecting new ideas and preserving unique cultural elements.

Manage HR’s Relationship with Leaders

Finally, one of the best ways HR executives can improve their organization’s environment and strategic management process is by managing their proximity to leadership. Optimally, an HR executive should be seen as a close advisor to leadership. That said, they should remain independent, with a focus on overall business outcomes. Employees need to see that HR cares about doing the right thing for the business rather than for their own or another leader’s agenda. If you are perceived as too close to the CEO, for example, you can lose the ability to influence the broader organization. HR must maintain the ability to influence and partner with others to do what is strategically best for the business.

Effective HR executives can and should be the backstage heroes of the strategic management process. Their overall strategic effectiveness comes from an unaltered focus on business outcomes and the ability to create an environment that fosters decision making, learning, and a growth mentality. When HR executives come to the table with this focus, they become true thought partners who think strategically and foster the right conditions for effective strategic management.


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