The days of HR as an administrative support function are long gone. Talent is what drives a company’s bottom line, and the links between people and performance are undeniable. However, there are still two different types of HR Director – those who go with the flow and those who direct the flow.

HR Directors now sit on the boards of many companies, but whether you could call their role strategically crucial still very much depends on the leadership qualities of the HR Director themselves. They are the ones to drive the changes in mentality that filter through an organization, so in this article I would like to investigate what makes a truly strategic HR Director.

They hire the right talent. Strategic HR Directors understand the cultural nuances and business demands so closely that they only bring in people with the right fit. They understand the financial and business costs of a bad hire and use every possible tool to ensure that they get top quality candidates.

They develop innovators. The best HR Directors help to foster an innovative culture. They understand that taking risks in every area of business often enables growth, and that failure is part of success. Innovators develop when HR rewards them for their brilliance and not just sticking to the rules.

They service customers. A strategic HR leader has a laser focus on customer service. They have an intimate understanding of the role that training plays in educating their staff in how to treat their customers, and they constantly push the boundaries to ensure that they are ahead of the market in this area.

They empower leaders. They don’t have all the answers, but they do give the ammunition to those who can find the answers. They are an insightful coach and a confidant(e), where previously they would have merely been a functional tool. They are the glue to keep the management team on track.

They focus on the bottom line. HR and Finance departments are getting ever closer in terms of their KPIs. It is all about optimising business performance. In some companies, there is even a new CPO role (Chief Performance Officer) which oversees both departments. They must understand the deeper financial implications of any HR decision.

They know how to use data. Having data about your people is not enough. Those HR Directors who can understand, interpret and utilize the data will know which levers to pull to maximize the organizations effectiveness. The big data revolution is here – HR needs to embrace it.

They change perceptions. Strategic HR is about assisting in creating a new direction for the company. They are instrumental in drawing the road map, but to do this, they sometimes have to help change the perceptions of the wider employee base. They are the natural thought leaders for any company.

In many business critical areas, across all industries, HR is now stepping up and taking the lead. They are no longer supporting change; they are increasingly initiating it. That is the true meaning of being strategic.

At Réncái, we are dedicated to work with these leaders, driving company wide business transformation initiatives, where employee engagement, performance and professional development is a priority. Passionate about Strategic HR Transformation, and interested in the next career development opportunity? Contact us explore how we can partner with each other moving forward.