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Since we can all agree that the “Key to Great HR” doesn’t reside with certain certifications or standard learning, what is the key to great HR? How can you deliver immediate strategic value – even in an HR department of one?

4 Ways to Add Immediate Strategic HR Value – Regardless of Where You Sit Within HR


1. Align Yourself with Your Client

It may come as no surprise that the first step to add immediate strategic HR value is to align yourself with your client. But this is NOT the normal setting for HR people. Instead, most HR departments are set-up to have their HR professionals be aligned with their boss, their internal HR team, the company, or their peers.

Being “aligned” with your department is ok, but it’s not strategic.

Instead, you should first be focused on what your client needs and wants, and be a fierce supporter of his or her needs. Essentially, you’ll need to shift your priorities and your “side” within your team. It’s not that you’re going to be against the traditional expectations of rooting for your HR department, but instead, you’re going to approach questions, rollouts, situations, programs, and so on – from the perspective of what your CLIENT needs and wants.

Being “aligned” with your department is ok, but it’s not strategic. #HR Click To Tweet

From experience, it can be uncomfortable at times among your HR team. They may see you as… aloof or as asking too many questions. It’s an unfortunate side effect that is based on the other person’s insecurities – not that you’re doing something wrong.

In fact, being your client’s biggest ally and supporter will only help you grow your career. Because not only will you be able to showcase your awesome HR skills, but you’ll also be showcasing your business savvy and ability to think outside of the HR box.

2. Frame Your Work

The goal of framing your work, is to start making the connection between your HR activities and the company’s annual goals. In a perfect world, your CHRO would already do this for you – but we’re not there yet at most companies. Instead, create the new frame for your own work.

Consider the projects you’re working on or the questions you get, and start making the connection between why it is important you do these things for the company. This is my famous “So What?” question. How can you draw a line from your activity to something that adds to the company’s bottom line – moving the action away from “just being an HR thing” to something that is necessary for the business to thrive?

How can you draw a line from your activity to something that adds to the company’s bottom line? #HR Click To Tweet

3. Up your Communication Game

Even if you did everything perfectly, if you don’t also up your communication game, you are still likely to fail. Being able to connect and engage with your audience (ahem, communicate), is a critical component in your strategic capabilities.

Think of it this way: if you find the cure to cancer but don’t tell anyone about it, did you accomplish something?

I know, a drastic consideration and HR is usually not that dramatic, but your work does carry significant value to your organization. So if you’re doing all of these amazing things – adding strategic value, making employees happier at work, increasing engagement, and so on – being able to share that work and your findings along the way, is important for the business.

You can start here.

4. Manage Your Calendar Strategically

Yes, we’re stepping into calendar planning – stay with me here. I know that for most of us, accepting every meeting invite, taking calls at all times, keeping our emails open all day, being signed into IM – are all things we MUST DO. It is probably at the point where you aren’t even aware of how damaging it is or how tiring it all can be.

You’re on auto-mode.

Let’s be clear: there is no way to actually BE strategic, THINK strategically or DELIVER strategy if you are buzzing around and on auto-mode.

You have to stop auto-responding to meetings, taking calls at all times, having email and IM open forever and ever – to create the space you need to do strategic work. It’s not going to be easy – but once you start practicing it, it will change your life.

You can't BE strategic, THINK strategically or DELIVER strategy if you're on auto-mode. Click To Tweet

Start by crafting out an hour (ok 30 minutes if you’re really scared) each day ideally (start once a week if daily freaked you out) on your calendar. Block it like you would any other meeting, and during that time, close out email, IM, turn your ringer off, etc., and focus on big rock projects. Spend the time thinking, working on, brainstorming – whatever you need, on a big project that needs more strategic insight. Maybe it’s creating a plan or a SWOT analysis or a way to connect the project with the business.

Whatever it is, that time is sacred.

It’s the time you are going to give your brain a place to THINK. To only be focused on strategy – not the thousands of tactical little things you need to do.

Trust me: your calendar can afford it and your work (and overall happiness in your role) will improve significantly.