The Human Resource Department (HRD) is critical to achieving organizational goals and effectiveness. Human Resource Leaders provide the knowledge, training and talent management oversight that every business needs for exemplary operation.[i] One of HRD’s most important responsibilities is developing an effective human resource strategy, which incorporates knowledge of what matters most to the firm’s current and future workforce. An outstanding human resource strategy can lead to many competitive advantages, highlight the importance of human resource management, and maximize your business’s performance. Here are three key aspects of a human resource strategy.
Leadership is an important part of human resource management and an overall human resource strategy. The HRD group often has the first look at a firm’s talent. Human Resources implements processes such as talent management that is “designed to attract, develop, motivate, and retain productive, engaged employees.”[ii] The HRD group's focus is managing and nurturing the firm's most important investment--its employees. From the day HRD defines the job function until the day an employee resigns, HRD implements many human resource strategies to increase competitive advantage. The importance of human resource management is highlighted here, because HRD establishes strategies they find best fitting for the individual and for the company. Some of those strategies may include keeping employees engaged, helping employees grow their personal strengths, and encouraging employees to show initiative, innovation and uniqueness. Developing leadership throughout the firm is a key competitive advantage.
In 2015, leadership development was second in global human capital trends.[iii] An effective human resource strategy will incorporate leadership development as an important characteristic in their human talent strategy and implement ways to develop individuals as better leaders. Villanova University reports “Leaders with strong people development skills are 50% more likely to outperform revenue expectations.”[iv]
2. Employee Engagement
Employee engagement includes interesting work, work-life balance, and confidence the firm cares for employee health and wellness. Currently, four out of every ten workers work more than 50+ hours a week.[v] A recent study in Australia suggested that the optimal workweek should be 3 days long. Why? Employees over 40 working more than 25 hours a week had significantly increased fatigue, stress, and significantly lower brain activity than those working less than 25 hours. [vi] With current work demands of most full-time positions being 40+ hours, this aspect of employee engagement has become one of the challenges of human resource management.
Microsoft’s 2015 study showed that humans now have an attention span shorter than that of a goldfish, which doesn’t help our over 50 hour workweeks.[vii] Furthermore, there has been an increased dependence on technology, especially mobile devises. 77% of people aged 18-24 admitted that reaching for their phone is the first thing they do when the become bored.[viii] HRD’s creativity can be deployed to develop healthy ways to stimulate employee brains and physical activity. Wellness programs tied into employee benefit plans are becoming popular. These wellness programs are triple wins--employees are healthier, the company enjoys lower insurance premiums, and the insurance carrier has lower costs (and earns a reputation of being a partner for employee health and lower employer costs). CATMEDIA employees currently compete in a friendly, team-based steps competition. This challenge promotes physical fitness, teamwork, and employee engagement.
Another current trend is diversity. Some benefits of diversity include increased adaptability, broader service range, variety of viewpoints, and a more effective execution, all of which when incorporated into a human resource strategy lead to innovation and competitive advantage. [ix] However, one of the challenges of human resource management is promoting diversity in a way that isn’t counterproductive.[x] One study of 829 participating firms showed that after millions of dollars and many diversity-training sessions, diversity had no positive effects in the average workplace.[xi] To help ensure investments in diversity deliver to your bottom line, you will want to conduct a needs analysis to better understand your employees, their differences and their viewpoints. Then you can develop diversity awareness and sensitivity training that contributes to your bottom line, and build program evaluation into the training to ensure you can measure your investment return.
Common Challenges of Human Resource Management
The top challenges of human resource management include change management, leadership development, and HR effectiveness. [xii] PwC and WFPMA worked together to report that change management is a challenge for 48% of businesses; leadership development is a challenge for 35% of businesses, and HR Effectiveness measurement is a challenge for 27% of businesses.[xiii]
Additional challenges of human resource management include recruiting qualified talent, retaining and rewarding top employees, and creating a corporate environment that attracts employees. [xiv] To combat these issues and gain competitive advantages, follow theses tips:
1. Develop a clear human resource strategy that incorporates leadership, training, and development. Make sure your strategy incorporates knowledge from the past, present and future.
2. Utilize metrics to determine effectiveness. Consider implementing surveys, ratings, and rankings in order to get important feedback from your employees.
3. Focus on individuals. Individuals should be evaluated on their current contributions as well as their cooperation and collaboration skills. Employee engagement is nurtured by encouraging employees to develop skills that contribute to the firm's long-term goals. [xv]
When you invest in human resource management, competitive advantages follow. What additional tips do you suggest for increasing competitive advantage through strategic human resource management?
[i] Susan, Heathfield. “What is Human Resouce Management.” Humanresources.about.com, 2015.
[ii] “Talent Management.” Johns Hopkins University, 2010.
[iii] “Human Capital Trends 2015” Deloitte, 2015.
[iv] University Alliance. “Human Resource Management Challenges.” Bisk Education, 2016.
[v] Isidore, Chris and Tami Luhby. “Turns out Americans work really hard…but some want to work harder.” CNN, 2015.
[vi] BBC News. “Three-day working week ‘optimal for over 40s.’ BBC, 2016.
[vii] McSpadden, Kevin. “You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish.” Time Inc, 2015.
[viii] McSpadden, Kevin. “You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish.” Time Inc, 2015.
[ix] Greenberg, Johs. “Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits, Challenges, and Solutions.” Convergence Media Inc, 2009.
[x] Bregman, Peter. “Diversity Training Doesn’t Work.” Harvard Business Review, 2012.
[xi] Dobbin, Frank, Alexandra Kalev, and Erin Kelly. “Diversity Management in Corporate America.” Scholar.Harvard.edu, 2007.
[xii] University Alliance. “Human Resource Management Challenges.” Bisk Education, 2016.
[xiii] University Alliance. “Human Resource Management Challenges.” Bisk Education, 2016.
[xiv] “Challenges Facing HR Over the Next 10 years.” (2012). SHRM.
[xv] University Alliance. “Human Resource Management Challenges.” Bisk Education, 2016.
CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).