The role of HR in strategic planning

Feb 26 2004 by Dan Bobinski Print This Article

It's not just a place to go when troubles arise: Human Resources is a vital department within companies, but too often they are misunderstood and underutilized.

Thirty years ago, we had the "personnel department." It took care of pretty much everything relating to people in the workplace. Then about twenty years ago we had split - techo-terms became the rage (remember "domestic engineers?) and we realized that we were dealing "human resources," and so a new department was born. But over the past fifteen-to-twenty years, HR has gone through another split: Human Resource Management, and Human Resource Development. Yes, the two have a bit of overlap, but agreement among experts in the field is that the two branches of HR can help an organization accomplish its strategic goals - if only top management would let them.

First a bit of clarification:

Human Resource Management is commonplace in most larger companies. According to Richard Chang, author of The Passion Plan at Work, HRM focuses mainly on HR Research and Information Systems, Union/Labor Relations, Employee Assistance, and Employee Compensation/Benefits.

Human Resource Development, according to Chang, includes Career Development (helping individuals align their career planning), Organizational Development (helping groups initiate and manage change), and Training and Development (designing / developing, and delivering training to ensure people are equipped to do their jobs).

Where the two tend to overlap are Selection and Staffing, Organizational/Job Design, Human Resource Planning, and Performance Management System.

What's important to note about HR overall is that too often it is omitted from participation in key strategic decisions. This mistake can be quite detrimental to effectively achieving strategic goals. Here are some reasons to include HR in the planning process (as well as in meetings of top management):

1. Selection and Staffing: When goals are set, it's people who work to fulfill those goals. Having the right people in the right places is vital, and if new hiring is to occur, finding the right people is equally vital. HR folks are usually on top of the employee market, and decisions will be more effective if HR knows firsthand the clear direction of the company. They can immediately speak to any potential conflicts between what a company wants and what is truly realistic in HR terms, thus helping ensure the plans are workable right from the start.

2. Organizational Development: Strategic planning often encompasses change in workplace systems or processes. Although individual departments are likely aware of the status of their own departments, HR folks are often aware of group initiatives and changes that has occurred company-wide. Accordingly, they will be able to speak to OD issues with unique insights on how changes may impact systems and processes already in place.

3. Training & Development: Research shows that only 20% of the workforce has the skills that will be required ten years from now. That means training and development are guaranteed to be needed at some point of the strategic growth process. Again, HRD folks will be able to speak instantly to any issues, and possibly provide input that could help a company achieve its goals faster.

More reasons exits, but we'll stop there.

The main point is that HR is often thought of as the place to go for employee conflict, employee assistance, or compliance issues. But HR is much more than that, and top management would do themselves and their organizations well if they included HRM and HRD professionals in their strategic planning. There is nothing to lose by doing so, and plenty to gain.

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About The Author

Dan Bobinski
Dan Bobinski

Daniel Bobinski teaches teams and individuals how to use emotional intelligence and how to create high impact training. Heís also a best-selling author, a popular speaker, and he loves helping teams and individuals achieve workplace excellence

Older Comments

How does the strategic planning process for HR differ from that of top line executives. Does HR think strategically different and if yes, what are their key issues vs corporate

Suzanne C. Lewis

In my opinion HRD and HRM should be blended in one section of a firm and it shlould be the one that takes descions and analysez the market forces

Amna Masood Pakistan

no doubt all sections of hr are important but isn't it so if we are havint too much departments in an organization witrh overlapped responsibilities,it will definitely incoure more it will be a better way if we murge hrm and hrd

wajihah pujab university

i think it will cost more if we are having two departments having overlapped responsibilities.rather the two departments should be merged

wajihah zafar punjab university pakistan

HR will be able to assume the strategic role, only when the Top management will be able to measure the contributions by HR to the competitive advantages what the Organization has on the basis of VRIO framework. The strategic function can be resumed only if the other functions are being performed well, either through outsourcing or the internal resources of HR

Aditi Mishal

Its always wise to use the suggestions of two or more people in any decision making. It will provide better solutions and there should be a separate dept for HRM and HRD but keeping in mind that both the dept are working to achieve the common goal.This will create less cunfusion among the employees and better working environment.


In a company HR department Head should be given a principal place in strategic planning. The HR department should be responsible for recruting as well as training beside other functions. The blending of two aspects with HR will avoide conflict rather it will facilitate to recruitment with training needs & training with development needs of the company.

Zikria Preston University, Karachi Pakistan

it is good to have a seperate management department in an organization for keeping the matters of organization seperately. HR department should only consult with managing resources of employees in a better way to accomplish organizational goals

sajid zulfiqar M.A.J.U. Islamabad, Pakistan

The key to strategic management is to involve the Human Resource in the top management of the organization. This will enable planning strategic production, communication,marketing and Human skill Development go hand inhand to enhance efficiency, cut cost and increase production. This will even be easier with the help of information Systems in place.

Ferdinand Obure

The 21th Century sociotechnical complexity also means higher grade of competency needed of the CEOs in the companies and the government. Unfortunately, nor the majority of companies or governments have leaders with this level of competency to cope with this complexity. To see HR departments as an important corporate resource requires this new level of 'strategic competence' not seen in the CEOs and political executives nowadays. So, the main corporate crisis we have to overcome in the next years is the 'leadership crisis'! And, again, we are looking for the men (and women) of special value ...!

E. A. Capuano Brasilia (DF), Brazil.