Multicolored wheel divided into 7 equal sections Recruitment, Training and Development, Benifits and Compensation, Communicating, Employee Relations, Recordkeeping, and Health safety and security with Legal compliance written on the outer edge and company strategy in the center is emphasized

HR’s Strategic Role


What is HR’s role in helping a company weather an economic downturn?


Most of us were impacted in one way or another by the Great Recession in 2008 – 2011. Coming in off the heels of a stellar economy, it forced many of us to re-evaluate ourselves and our businesses. Fortunately, we are slowly but surely emerging from the Great Recession and the economic forecast looks bright for a few more years (experts predict a potential dip in 2014 but no real recession until 2017 or 2018).

So, what strategic role does HR play in the company to help weather the ups and downs of an economy? Since our employees are the most important asset to the company, managing our employees is HR’s most strategic role. What do we need to do develop, engage, and retain our employees when there is either a tough economy or a tight labor market?

As the job market for specific skills gets tighter and tighter, no matter what the economic state, we need to find ways to develop our talent. Is it training for today or development for tomorrow? Where are your gaps? Are they soft skills, technical skills, or unique expertise? Assess your employees and find out. Create a formal development plan with each employee. Then, work together to provide the employee with the on-the-job skills, as well as the training, to be ready for your needs today and tomorrow.

With an average tenure in the US of 24 months, HR must find ways to engage employees and build some employment loyalty. Growth and development is the first component. But, we need to find out from employees what actually motivates them and makes them want to work for us. We can do this through employee surveys, focus groups, or one on one discussions. You will need to find the answers to questions such as:

  • What do you like most about working for us?
  • What do you wish you could change?
  • What makes you come to work here everyday versus someplace else?
  • What might entice you to leave us and go to another employer?

With the answers to these questions, take action! Ensure those things that your employees “like” never go away and only get better. For the items they suggested for workplace improvement or change, it’s time to change. Get employees involved in making the change. For example, during an economic downturn, ask your employees what they company can do to save money and retain employees? Involving the employees in decision making gets them engaged in the outcomes, which might include pay cuts and furloughs to save money, instead of layoffs. Use your employees to get new and innovative ideas. Ask, listen, and do…

Finally, communicate! We’ve seen many businesses struggle, both in prosperous and tough times, because of their failure to communicate with employees. Nobody wants to learn what’s happening in their company from the media or the grapevine. Employees want to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly from the company directly. Find ways to communicate your message and ensure it is heard. It may take multiple messages and multiple media outlets, but the results will help you retain your employees. And that is your strategic role.

In many organizations HR still struggles to find a place at the leadership table. By thinking strategically and relying on proven business practices and tools HR can show value and become a partner with the leadership team. Strategic HR, inc. knows how difficult it can be to integrate practices with the overall business strategy. Let us assist you with your strategic initiatives – visit our HR Strategy page to learn more.