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    HR Strategy Map: The Start of a New Beginning

    By Jeremy Henderson | October 31st, 2011

    Across the entire globe, HR teams are going through a transformation that will take them from being entirely focused on the delivery of service to employees to a team that is strategic to the future success of the business. However, many HR teams continue to focus on developing an annual “to-do list” rather than designing a strategy that is aligned with the needs of the business.

    To take your team from tactical to strategic, you’ve got to start at the very beginning with the most difficult step in the process—the dreaded strategy map.

    A Very Good Place to Start

    The strategy map is something that not everyone will understand—even senior executives. The issue is that most people are not taught to develop strategy first and some executives fully believe that tactics drive strategy. So, the development of a strategy map has some risks, but you can always tailor your communication of your HR strategy to the audience to which you are presenting.

    Regardless of your audience’s ability to understand the tactic itself, you can use it as your team’s guide to the Promised Land, one where the HR team is understands how their work contributes to HR’s overall strategy intent.

    There are four parts to the strategy map:

    ·         Financial

    ·         Customer

    ·         Systems

    ·         Talent and Technology

    Oh the Places You Could Go

    A strategy map can be confusing if you don’t understand how to read it or what it means. So, to help you get a solid start in building your strategy map, it is important to note that the layout of the map is exactly as bulleted above. The talent and technology form the base of the map with the systems stacked on top of that, customers on top of that, with financial being at the top of the stack.

    It is also important to note that talent and technology and systems are all considered input and the customer and financial sections are considered outputs. But, even though it may sound as if financial would be the last section you would design first, it is actually the first step in building the map. Yes, you guessed it. You build it backwards. To get your map built, ask yourself the following questions:


    ·         What is the financial outcome your company is targeting?

    ·         What part of that outcome can the HR team affect?

    ·         What is the dollar figure—either through revenue or expense—is the HR team signing up to achieve? (For example: If the HR team is strategically focused on reducing turnover as part of expense management, then knowing how much it costs to recruit and hire new employees would be essential to proving your financial success.)


    ·         Who is the HR team’s customer? (Most will think that the “customer” is a person; however, your actual customer might be employee engagement, if you are signed up to boost revenue or decrease expenses.)

    ·         When you think about the customer, what do you need to do to ensure that the customer will help your team achieve its financial outcome? (If employee engagement is your customer, then having a plethora of development opportunities would likely be a key element of your customer strategy.)


    ·         With your customer in mind, which systems do you need to deliver on to ensure customer success?

    ·         When you think about systems, keep in mind that the actual technology is handled in the next section. Here, consider the types of systems that will help you achieve your overall outcome. (To have development opportunities in your organization, for example, a system may be professional mentoring. Or, perhaps one system is purely administration, while other systems may be development, hiring, communications, etc.)

    Talent and Technology

    ·         At the base of your strategy is talent and technology. Now that you have a full picture of what financial outcome the HR team is driving, as well as an understanding of just exactly who your customer actually is and the systems through which you will drive success, the talent and technology you need should be perfectly clear.

    ·         Talent is a buzz word today in HR for sure, but don’t get blinded by it. We are talking about the specific knowledge, skills and abilities you will need present within your team or in your company to achieve your desired outcomes.

    ·         Technology may include computer technology; however, if you are work in an organization that doesn’t work on computers, perhaps you will need access to a printing press to achieve your results. Again, don’t let the term blind you, but rather think through all of the tools you will need to get to the results you seek.

    Get a Map Maker

    Developing a strategic HR map is a difficult process if you’ve never done it before. However, the very good news is that you can get help if you need it. There are only a few Human Relations consulting firms (such as Jungle Red Communication), which is what we’d suggest engaging; however, you can also look to strategy or management firms for help, too.

    If you don’t want to bring in an expert to help, then we’d recommend getting very good at force-field brainstorming as the preferred method to getting to the strategy you can use to drive significant business results, while getting your HR leadership team on board to deliver.