Why Strategic HR Leaders Will Stay in the Spotlight Post-Pandemic
In the years ahead, successful HR leaders will need to think on their feet while being strategic. This article describes three ways to do just that.
Through our stormiest days, effective HR leaders have empathy, courage, strategy, vision, and connection. We highlight one of these superpowers below, and you can learn about the rest in the summary article: Top 5 Superpowers of Effective HR Leaders. You can also discover which superpower is yours by taking this short quiz—don’t forget to share your results on social media after!
If you work in HR, you have likely gained an appreciation for what it truly means to be an adaptive leader.
Maybe you hired more people in the summer of 2020 with the reopening of the economy, but then had to pull back with the resurgence in COVID-19 case numbers. Maybe your plans were disrupted through spikes in absences or voluntary turnover. Or one branch of your company was harder hit than other branches.
How to balance it all in uncertain times? Enter: agile and strategic HR leaders taking central stage while thinking outside the norm, and putting out fires on the daily. Take the finance sector, for example, many HR leaders there moved people from processing claims to selling new policies. Over the course of the health crisis, individuals found themselves switching to completely different roles—and doing so in a matter of days, not months—to keep the business afloat, and the employees, well, employed.
Panasonic’s Lydia Wu took the HR Superpowers Quiz and discovered, unsurprisingly, that hers is Strategy. Watch this short video (:46) to hear why she says that strategy & DEI go hand in hand.
Moving into a post-pandemic world, strategic HR leaders will need to continue flexing that agility muscle they developed in recent months to face other potential disruptions—whether it’s the emergence of a competitor, a flood brought on by climate change, dramatic socio-political changes or, knock on wood, another pandemic.
In turbulent environments, strategic and flexible HR leaders will continue to be in demand–which is why it’s one of the five HR superpowers. These types of leaders can zoom in and out and see around corners to make better decisions on behalf of the company and their employees. A truly strategic HR leader:
Sees the big and small picture
Is naturally curious
Anticipates upcoming needs
Is flexible and quick to pivot
Want to know what trait you identify most with? Take our short quiz to find out what makes you a superpowered HR pro!
How people analytics supports strategic HR leaders
Strategic HR leaders, who typically excel at examining how individual parts impact the whole, will benefit from using analytics-driven planning to get an end-to-end view of—not only how the organization operates—but also its past, present and potential futures.
Here are three ways strategic leaders are supported by people analytics:
1. Quickly running multiple what-if scenarios
Strategic HR leaders develop workforce plans for multiple situations, whether it involves divestitures, splits, no growth, slow growth, medium growth, or rapid growth. This helps them understand the range of possibilities for tackling cost challenges and pursuing new opportunities.
But information is often spread across the organization in siloed systems within various departments and is difficult to aggregate and reconcile. This makes it difficult to create one plan, let alone multiple.
The right people analytics platform enables HR leaders to create and compare different workforce planning scenarios (each with different workforce movement and cost assumptions) so that not only can they choose the best option for their organization, they can have contingency plans in place.
2. Flexing budgets and processes
Unforeseen circumstances pose a challenge to HR teams that don’t have the budget flexibility to adapt to the changing environment. With a shorter planning cycle in place, strategic HR leaders can quickly realign resources to different projects as they become more critical.
An agile process that supports planning—whether it’s three months ahead or one day ahead—requires rethinking the tech landscape and having regular workforce planning conversations with business leaders, especially finance.
For example, with Visier workforce planning, the planning director of a financial services organization enabled multiple people to collaborate on the same plan to create a more accurate picture of demand. Department leaders can review and refine projections that Visier makes based on historical data—and then assign other leaders who report to them to refine the plan further.
The right people analytics platform helps HR leaders make it a priority to have all levels of business quickly give input and collaborate on the creation of a workforce plan. They can track whether plan contributors are completing their assignments to assess project progress and help determine what to do in each individual case.
To put it simply, collaboration is something that strategic HR leaders seek out and is made possible with analytics-driven planning.
3. Identifying—and quickly acting upon—external trends
HR leaders and airplane pilots have something in common: to react effectively in the moment, they need high levels of situational awareness. This is where external data, considered alongside internal workforce trends, is an asset.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, many organizations used public data sets to answer questions such as: Which US states are currently high risk and which soon will be? This helped them anticipate future lockdowns and shifts in demand for talent.
“Purely emotional responses and panic tends to lock up decision-making,” explained Ian Cook, Visier’s vice president of people solutions, during an open forum held at the onset of the pandemic. Data visualization can provide clarity about what all this means and what organizations need to be doing next.
Moving forward, as organizations navigate external situations that are beyond their control, they can get good answers about macro trends instead of making decisions based on gut feel. This also makes it easier for HR to continue thinking strategically about the things they can control, like employee benefits, staffing, and reskilling programs.
Nimble HR leaders can also be strategic
As future business environments become increasingly unpredictable, so too does an organization’s talent needs. But when long-term talent needs cannot be predicted, it is still possible for strategic HR leaders to thrive and act effectively in the moment. Agile workforce planning, when driven by people analytics, can help HR anticipate potential issues and opportunities early and often.
At the end of the day, strategic HR leaders have proven their worth—and will continue to be valued—as organizations chart a path through recovery and face new challenges.