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How Can I Transition From Administrative HR to Strategic HR?

After two years as an HR administrative assistant, I have been promoted to HR manager. I spent most of my time working with new-hire background checks, evaluations, insurance and payroll. What is the best way for me to quickly learn and apply the strategic aspects of HR management?

—First Step on New Journey, HR manager, manufacturing, Navasota, Texas

July 29, 2013
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Dear First Step on New Journey:

Congratulations on your promotion. The path from administrative HR to strategic HR is meaningful. The fact that you have gained knowledge, skills and tools within administrative HR to date is important. It will allow you to be a subject matter expert in the day-to-day operations of HR. While you may feel compelled to go to what you know best in administrative HR, especially when your team has challenges, you must do your best to be strategic as well. The success of your HR department will depend upon your ability to efficiently and effectively balance administrative HR with strategic HR.

By following the specific steps below, you will quickly get up to speed and be able to apply the strategic aspects of HR Management:

  1. HR Impacts the Business – The core of strategic HR is aligning human resource functions with the business enterprise. The “alignment” aspect includes thinking about the business as it relates to recruitment and retention, learning and development, employee engagement and performance management. Ask questions such as: “In what specific ways can our existing HR systems/functions contribute to our company’s business/mission? What do we need to build upon and what do we need to do differently and why?”
  2. Learn from Business Leaders – It is important to talk to professionals in your company who work in business, including sales, customer service, logistics and operations. The more these professionals view the HR manager as a partner and not an outsider, the better. By spending time getting to know their role within the business, it leverages opportunities for shared understanding, increased partnerships and enhanced synergies which drive strategy.
  3. Plug into LinkedIn.com – These days, LinkedIn is a terrific resource to gain insights on strategic HR from practitioners in the field. Join LinkedIn groups and engage in discussion to gain the most value. Some quality LinkedIn Groups with a Strategic HR focus include HR leadership forum, engagement and retention forum and organizational development and training forum, among others.
  4. Example-Based Learning – There are many examples of organizations having a HR strategy within the overall Strategic Plan. Go online to find these examples using key words like “HR Strategy and Strategic Plan.” Having worked as a HR director, I know that having an HR component to the company’s strategic plan definitely added value. It allowed us to have specific goals, objectives, timeframes and responsibilities for how we were going to transform HR into a more strategic function across the company. And, it quickly ramped up my strategic HR quotient because I was very involved in the developing and implementing the initiative.
  5. Ideas through Association – Given your work in the manufacturing industry, it is likely that your company belongs to a professional trade association. Typically, associations have workgroups focused in different areas, including Strategic HR. By learning from professionals working strategically in HR within your industry, it will continue to give you the necessary knowledge, skills and tools to be successful. And, if there is not a Strategic HR group in the association, then request to create one. In short order, you, as the person creating the strategic HR workgroup within your association will be seen as a leader, adding value to your strategic HR credibility.

Source: Dana E. Jarvis, School of Leadership and Professional Advancement, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, July 17, 2013

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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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