What should your HR strategy be during the recovery?

Cascade’s HR and payroll software experts are no stranger to the media, with our advice and opinions often sought by journalists and bloggers for related industry articles. But this month it was the turn of Jane Pointet, HR Director of Cascade’s parent company IRIS.

Jane was interviewed by HR Magazine’s new deputy editor, on the topic of HR strategy during the recovery. She spoke openly about the challenges that faced HR teams when the UK was in the midst of a deep recession, before recommending the outlook fellow HRDs should try to adopt now a level of business confidence has returned. And it seems her thoughts went down well, as she was quoted extensively in the resulting four page cover story in HR Magazine’s May issue.

If you missed the write up, Jane shares some of her key thoughts here:

[blockquote]“When asked about the extent to which HR strategy should change during an economic recovery, my first thought was that, quite frankly, strategy should continually evolve regardless of the business climate. HR teams that stand still for too long will soon feel swamped by another, otherwise avoidable challenge, if they don’t continually look to the future.

But, focusing particularly on the post-recession landscape, I would indeed urge HR professionals to think a little differently when it comes to strategic development and roll out. There is now a lot more movement in the workplace which presents newfound opportunities for employees to further their career elsewhere. Our mindset should therefore shift from simply ‘keeping the wheels on the bus’ to proactively shaping the business for the good of employee satisfaction and wider bottom line success.

I’m not saying HR teams completely neglected recruitment and retention strategies during the recession, but this certainly comes to the forefront when the job market picks up. It is important to think about the type of talent you wish to attract too. There are, as always, highly qualified graduates coming out of University, eager to put their knowledge into practice. But we perhaps have a duty to look at individuals who graduated during the recession too, and have perhaps been working in roles they didn’t really want, purely for job security and income reasons. There are other skilled non-graduate workers in such roles too, who could provide a really value-adding contribution to your business, so think about the pool of talent you are going to look to.

In saying all of this it is crucial to remember that HR strategy should not become disconnected from the wider company strategy, otherwise it won’t impact upon the commercial robustness of the organisation, which it should. Business focus is now very much about growth, so HR teams have to maintain and gather momentum to play their part in achieving this.

This is a great opportunity to remind people what contribution we can make in the boardroom. We had to work hard during the recession, supporting our organisations during, in some instances, what will have been their toughest years yet. Many of us learned very quickly that we had to turn challenges into opportunities, and this should stand us in good stead as we focus on more transformational HR and business evolution moving forward.

Over the past few years we’ve focused more on what we can do in house, with the skills and knowledge we’ve got, which doesn’t cost as much. We’ve rationalised our investments, taking perhaps a more generic approach to survival rather than thinking about what will best motivate and nurture each individual employee on a case by case basis. But those of us who have emerged from the recession stronger than we went in, are now in a fantastic position to begin spending money again, but on the right things. We’ve learned how to do things smarter, which means we’ll continue to reap savings in some areas, whilst investing surplus financial resource in tailored HRM.

Different organisations with different cultures and objectives will tackle this in different ways, but to reward, develop and boost the morale of our staff, we’re actively going into our numerous branch offices throughout the UK, and speaking to staff about their needs. We know that by spending a little, and changing small elements to our strategy, we can in fact achieve lots.

Not all companies are as embracing of change, but to remain rigid and inflexible, especially when there are now rafts of opportunities available, is now very dangerous. Yes, take a breather by all means, but pretty soon it is important to consider what the impact of the recession was, and what needs addressing to move forwards positively.

Of course every organisation is different, so my advice should not be taken verbatim. However, generally, a more considered, person-specific and transformational approach to HR is now needed, if we are to proficiently develop, engage and retain our talented assets.”[/blockquote]

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