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7 steps to your HR strategy

A good HR strategy helps an organisation achieve its purpose or mission, vision and strategic objectives. The organization’s HR strategy includes the HR priorities and objectives that contribute to achieving the HR Vision. Consequently, organizational strategy and HR strategy must be closely aligned. But how to proceed? The following seven steps lead to a winning HR strategy for your organisation.

Human factor

By HR strategy we mean the integral strategic objectives of the ‘Human Factor’ present within an organisation, which transcends the HR department’s activities alone. To successfully integrate an HR strategy, HR must therefore devise the strategy together with other stakeholders, including management, communications, IT and facility management.


It is vital to consider the scope of your HR strategy in advance. Many people believe an HR strategy should cover the entire organisation but you can just as easily target a cluster or department, and this could indeed even be necessary if profound differences exist between sections of the organization, for example.

Step 1. The  foundations of the organisation are clear

To create a good HR strategy, the foundations of the organisation must be clearly established as pertains to:

  • purpose or mission: why does the organisation exist? How is it contributing to a better world?
  • vision: how does the organisation aim to achieve its purpose or mission over the longer term?
  • what compelling and challenging goals do employees want to commit to?
  • strategic objectives: the actions the organisation pursues in the medium-term to realize its vision.
  • organizational core values: the organization’s DNA, which serves as compass and test for actions to be undertaken.
  • customer promise: the brand values ​​that apply to customers, which the internal organisation can identify with and convey both externally and internally.

The HR strategy can only fully contribute to the organization’s success if the foundations for the HR strategy are clear; unfortunately, often this isn’t the case and then it becomes a question of ‘making do with what you got’. In such cases the business can help establish the foundations that are also part of the HR strategy.

Step 2. HR vision: what kind of employer does the organisation want to be?

 Once the foundations are clear, the next question is: what kind of employer do you want to be in order to continue building together? Who is willing and able to make you happy in your organisation? How do you want (potential) employees to feel when interacting with your organisation? What emotions and experiences do you wish to convey? You establish this in organization’s HR vision.

Questions you can pose include:

  • How would you like colleagues to speak about your organisation at social events like birthday parties?
  • For what reason(s) would you like employees to stay with your organisation and be the best versions of themselves?
  • How would like former employees to remember your organisation after five years?
  • What reputation do you want to have on the job market and for whom do you want to be an attractive employer? And for whom not?
  • In what ways does your organisation strive to be unique for employees and distinct from the competition?
  • With which HR vision is the organization’s foundations aligned, bolstering the purpose, vision, core values ​​and customer promise?

The answers to these questions should be short and pertinent, not a long, abstract screed. An oft-forgotten element in most HR visions, HR ambitions and employer value propositions is the clear identification of the positive emotions we want employees to experience. Positive emotions make employees feel attracted to the organisation, feel genuinely at home and eager to commit themselves to the organisation. The employees’ connections to the organisation deepen when they experience positive emotions, thus strengthening the bond between employee and organisation.

Step 3. People perspective – goals

How happy are employees with their work and their employers? What do employees find important about their work? What do they think about their work environment? Do they have the right tools to work with?

In order to put the employees’ needs first, the following analysis is based on:

  • quantitative research that involves, for example, measurements taken from employee surveys, pulse surveys, HR KPIs, satisfaction assessments of (parts of) the employee journey and data analysis;
  • qualitative research derived from answers to open questions in employee surveys, insights from employee panels, complaints and expressed desires, for example;
  • the cultural aspects, leadership, employee journey and employment conditions, work environment, technology and tools that must change, according to employees.

This step provides insights into what employees deem important, the current state of affairs and the priorities that should be set in the HR strategy, according to employees.

Step 4. Business perspective – goals

Regarding the ‘Human Factor’, what does the business need to reach the strategic organizational goals:

  • What key organizational goals in this period have HR implications?
  • Which HR aspects are a ‘burden’ for the business, and what have helped the business?
  • In which HR aspect is (too) much valuable time currently being invested?
  • Which aspects of the culture, leadership, employee journey and employment conditions, work environment, technology and tools must change, according to the business?
  • What support is available?

This step provides insights into what should be established in the HR strategy, as pertains to what the business deems important, the current state of affairs and priorities.

Step 5. Short- and long-term external developments

 Which external developments must be included in the HR strategy? These can be short-term developments, like legislative or legal changes, health risks and technological changes, but also longer-term changes, like demographic, social, societal and technological developments and trends.

Step 6. Matches for HR-strategy prioritization

 You can then match the output of Steps 3, 4 and 5. Moreover, ongoing cases from an earlier period may also still need to be completed. Priorities mentioned in both Steps 3 and 4 have the highest priority.

It is often the case that there is too much to be achieved and priorities must be established. The ‘Effort x Impact’ matrix is a good ordering method; by plotting the total per subject in the matrix (impact high-low versus effort high-low), you get a good overview.

Many HR agendas are much too full and overloaded. In the months ahead unexpected things will certainly arise, and when they do it’s vital that you do not simply add them to the agenda but rather reconsider the prioritization. Setting priorities also means considering what you can stop, which is a valuable if not easy exercise. An HR agenda shouldn’t be more than 75% full with agreed priorities, which will help you persevere in the coming period. Cluster the activities under three to five priorities, with appealing labels, and then clearly present it to support that which is needed, the insights and gaps.

Before getting started with the HR strategy, it’s important to do another check:

  • Have we carefully considered all the interests of employees and the business?
  • Was the HR strategy co-created?
  • Is there strong alignment with the business strategy?
  • Have priorities been properly focused?
  • Can we also deliver on the HR strategy?
  • Do the HR interventions reinforce each other – is there good cohesion?
  • Do all stakeholders get energy from it?

Step 7. Roadmap for the HR strategy

The next step is to create a roadmap of how to devise the HR strategy: timing, manpower, working method, do-it-yourself or outsourcing, division of roles. Divide large subjects into smaller, manageable sub-activities that can be realized per month or quarter and do not plan too far ahead.

To further develop your plans, use other methods, like employee experience design (design thinking for HR) and agile working. When developing the HR strategy, involve employees and stakeholders, use their insights when innovating and allow solutions to come from co-creation. During the execution, determine the best time for giving your employees a real ‘wow moment’, which corresponds to the emotion you want the employees to experience. Use digital HR apps to support the solution. Focus on ‘doing the right things’ and less on ‘doing things right immediately’. Regularly adjust the priorities, because unexpected things are bound to happen.

Determine which KPIs are necessary for monitoring the realization of the HR vision and outcomes of the strategic objectives; these can be quantitative KPIs as well as qualitative ones. Continue measuring in other ways as well, to gauge whether you’re still on the right track. And use the input to periodically adjust your HR strategy.

Read more:

7 trends for HR in 2021

Employee Experience and HRM: 8 differences

5 reasons why working with personas HR helps in the employee journey


Author: Heleen Mes