Strategic orientation is the ability to broadly assess an environment, develop an understanding of challenges and opportunities faced by an organisation. It is also a way to craft a pathway from the current state to the future state within a workforce. Understanding how strategies implemented today can ripple through the organisation over time to drive future outcomes. It includes the ability to stay on task in the face of changing circumstances, while remaining flexible when course change is needed due to unforeseen circumstances.
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Applied to the HR discipline, strategic orientation includes the use of performance measures and metrics that assess the strategic impact of HR initiatives. It requires a shift from transactional process to consultative services, which can be defined as follows:
- The practice of strategic orientation demands intellectual space. Stephen Covey defines it as an important meaning for the management practices but it does not demand urgent attention. Savvy HR professionals will carve out time on a regular basis for reflection. Some questions that might arise are: what is working well? What could be working better? Where does the organization need to be in three years or in five years? What are the obstacles that are impacting the ability to move forward? How can those obstacles best be addressed? What are the human capital needs associated with the future state?
- Strategic orientation is fed through the gathering and analysis of information tempered by intuition and curiosity. Ask questions, challenge assumptions, read professional literature that looks at future trends and leading practices in the HR field, such as Harvard Business Review.
- If strategic orientation is difficult, find someone who is good at it and get them to challenge your thought processes. If the organization is big enough, hire someone whose job is to look toward the future and analyze leading practices. Collaborate with colleagues and pay attention to what other HR departments are doing to be successful.
- Become outcome focused and communicate this focus to staff and peers. Stephen R. Covey included “Begin with the end in mind” as one of his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Making decisions by envisioning the future state shifts the focus from short term cost to long term value.
- Develop strategic thinking skills. Question your opinions and beliefs, gather input from people in other departments and at other levels across your organization, and study other strategic thinkers.
Adopting a consistent use of the above lenses will bring added value and insight into all HR strategies and position the HR function to have a substantive and relevant impact on the organization.
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