Article: Get Strategic, Sooner!

Strategic HR

Get Strategic, Sooner!

The role of HR is evolving from "partner" to "anticipator", according to the Global Leadership Forecast Study
Get Strategic, Sooner!

Every organization has a strategic planning process. But, talent planning comes after the strategic plan, or worse yet, not at all


In my last column, I wrote about the impact analytics will have on our profession. In this issue, I will talk about another, but related trend: The Evolving Role of HR. All the data I share comes from the Global Leadership Forecast (GLF), a major research study DDI conducted in partnership with People Matters and The Conference Board involving over 2,000 organizations around the world.

As I mentioned in my past People Matters column, I find my “older” age gives me a unique perspective. I have been in the field of talent management for three decades, witnessing massive changes in both practices and our roles. In our new Global Leadership Forecast study, DDI put together a description of three possible roles HR professionals could be playing:

The Reactor: Ensures compliance with policies/practices; responds to business needs by providing tools/systems when asked.

The Partner: Openly exchanges information with the business about current issues; collaboratively works toward mutual goals.

The Anticipator: Uses data to predict talent gaps in advance; provides insights about how talent relates to business goals.

The reactor is more an antiquated role when the HR function was often known as the “personnel department”. Over the past decade, the label of “partner” came into vogue and represents a more collaborative role between lines of business and HR. At the time, it was the right move, but I for one of am sick and tired of the word “partner”. In our work with one of our clients, we saw a new role emerging we labeled the anticipator. This is a far more strategic role and one that means looking ahead, not behind. Ram Charan, describes this shift eloquently, “HR, he says, needs to move from a seat at the table, to setting the table”.

Of the 1,500 plus, HR professionals we surveyed, 22 per cent, (over one in five) were still playing the traditional reactor role! The good news? Sixty per cent classified themselves as partners. But, as expected, only a small percentage, (18 per cent) saw themselves as reactors. If you access the full Global Leadership Forecast study, (, you will have access to a more in-depth view of the critical differences between partners and anticipators.

There is one critical difference we would like to present here. Every organization has a strategic planning process. Yet, the majority of the time, strategic workforce or talent planning comes after the strategic plan, or worse yet, not at all. We find it incredulous that the link between an organization’s available talent and the ability to execute on business strategy is little more than an afterthought. The exception? Those organizations with anticipators in the HR role. As the figure below shows, anticipators are almost twice as likely as partners to be involved early in business planning. And, this early involvement makes a difference. Those organizations who were in the top 20 per cent in terms of a five-year composite financial index, were over six times more likely than the bottom 20 per cent to have talent management professionals who are involved early in the strategic planning process.

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Topics: Strategic HR, #ChangeManagement

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