The Role Of HR Strategist In Organizations: Competencies And Skillset

Best-Practice Model Approach


The role that the HR strategist plays in an organisation can vary due to the different models that companies apply when connecting HR to strategy. Most companies agree that it is the people that make the organisation (Persaud 2014), which demonstrates just how important the role of the HR strategist is. The competencies and skills expected of an HR strategist will be examined further, considering the varying roles that organisations expect HR to play.

Strategy making is an analytical process that ascertains an appropriate future calculated path with coherent goals and objectives (Andersen and Minbeava 2013, p. 810). If applying the best-practice model, the HR strategist must be analytical in devising practices that are set to enhance performance. Such a model denotes that practices devised by the HR strategist are applicable to all organisations, regardless of market type or size. This would suggest that there is a generic set of competencies for this role that can be applied to any organisation. Some scholars would disagree with this, finding that varying cultures within different organisations will require different skills (Emanoil and Nicoleta 2013, p. 1529). For example, I have worked for one recruitment company called Retail Human Resources (RHR), which consisted of a handful of national branches. The HR strategist here would have been integrated with standard internal procedures. This company was very small, stagnant and family-like. However, the last organisation that I worked for: Randstad, is an international organisation. One can imagine that the HR strategist would need to be headstrong and more adaptable, moving fast according to the different mergers, acquisitions and other frequent changes taking place.

The best-fit approach suggests a need for the HR strategist to be up-to-date with elements both internal and external to the organisation. Many regard this as a more realistic approach to have when considering the skill set required. The success of the workforce and the organisation is reliant upon the culture, mindset, expertise and strategy. Therefore, the HR strategist needs to be incorporated into processes around these factors, morphing the action plan around these (ASHE Higher Education Report 2012, p. 43). This approach calls for an HR strategist to be integrated within the industry of the organisation, so as to maintain awareness of internal and external issues affecting employees. This model has been criticised for the fact that it is of a more static nature, not placing focus upon the changes that organisations are facing today.

The resource-based view regards organisations as unique collection of assets, with people being the main focus. The HR strategist in this context would be expected to identify such assets and ensure that they are used to their full advantage, to ensure that the organisation maintains its competitive edge. They would need to be much more personable within the organisation so as to gauge the skills of employees and suggest where they are best allocated. Those who favour the best-fit approach regard the resource-based mindset as weaker, due to the fact that it is very internal and does not take into account the external environmental factors within HR strategy. 

Best-Fit Approach

Talent acquisition is a significant portion of the role of an HR strategist. Therefore, they must be able to combine their talent strategy with the business strategy of the organisation (Gochman and Storfer 2014, p. 25). HR decisions are often made based upon the past or present requirements of the organisation, but it is actually the future needs of the company that need to be taken into account. Analytical and critical thinking are essential skills required. Leadership skills are vital, as all HR strategists will at some point have to consensus-build so as to argue a case for additional funding or headcount for certain departments. Communication and listening are of equal importance, as this role entails acknowledging feedback and making changes known. As there is more involvement in changes such as restructures to the business, management skills of a business nature are necessary (Mayhew 2015).

With all of these aspects considered, an HR strategist needs to be approachable to all departments, so as to allow for honest and open communication regarding concerns and suggestions. They would need to recognise the relationship between their role and the success of the company (Buller and McEvoy 2012, p. 43). Today’s fast-paced climate means that this job role would require an individual equipped in managing change, intervening where necessary to make necessary decisions. As opposed to many decades ago where HR was predominantly admin-based, a HR strategist would now need to be a strong decision-maker.

Changing trends in the business environment now depend on having adequate human capital to gain competitive advantage. More and more organizations are recognizing the need to develop their human resource departments to standards necessary for optimal performance and a key means of achieving organizational objectives that goes beyond setting policies and processes. HR strategists are therefore consulted to work with managers in creating the adequate human assets and strategies needed to do so. Certain skills and competencies are required of these HR strategists to enhance firm effectiveness and include the following:

Personal qualities. The HR strategist need to be skilled enough to carry out tasks that center on developing HR strategies that will align with organizational strategies using HR logic, concepts, language and practices (Ramlall, 2006). Credibility, integrity, ethics, commitment, innovative, and taking initiatives for continuous growth and change are some of the attributes required (Schoonover, 2003). Leadership and management skills are critical to successful performances in strategy development (Schoonover, 2003).

Understanding the business. Knowledge of the diverse social, economic and business practices amongst competitors being developed from specific business scenes can go a long way to assist HR strategists in integrating with organizational goals (Pilbeam and Corbridge, 2010). This is an important competence necessary to create sustainable competitive advantage. By this, strategists can spend time with transformational HR activities that create value and affect the firm’s bottom line results such as on cost reduction and profit maximization, and less focus on transactional non value-added activities (Pilbeam and Corbridge, 2010; Ramlall, 2006). Partnering with senior executives in strategy development and contribution, maintaining customer focus and employee advocacy enhances the business skills they need to become more effective in supporting firm capability and facing competition  (Pilbeam and Corbridge, 2010; Ramlall, 2006).

Resource-Based View Approach

Technology and Delivery. Technological competence will be required for HR strategists who find themselves in complex business settings. By this they can ensure HR processes center on ethical practices, talent management, information spread, virtual team outreach, employee support, customer intervention, and skills measurement are delivered organization-wide in order to endure competition (Ramlall, 2006; Schoonover, 2003). Research has also shown it is imperative that HR strategists develop higher technical competencies such as in accounting and marketing effective for strategy implementation and integration (Ramlall, 2006).

HR measurement. As a core competence, strategists need to measure the impact of their contribution to the overall business process. Skills in performance management can help demonstrate the correlation between HR practices and the firm’s financial output, employee commitment, customer value plan and competitive advantage (Ramlall, 2006). This can also be a key to effective change management involving best practices needed to upgrade the firm’s profile (Schoonover, 2003).

These skills and competencies provide great input into a firm’s strategy. However, results of Ramlall’s research sand various others suggest that HR professionals and strategists still lack in some of these areas of competencies especially those related to technology. Technical competence has a strong relationship with strategic contribution necessary for a business’ success and this could be obtained from formal education, on-the-job training or the organization itself (Ramlall, 2006). It is now left to the HR strategist to determine the needs within the business environment and the means of obtaining these skills and competencies.

 Human resource management does not exist in isolation, its practices are tailored towards ensuring the achievement of set goals and objectives of each given organization in which they operate. Modern day business environment dynamics and intense competition owing to the availability of information has influenced the general working of sectors in an organization. HRM is not left out, as such its activities has gone beyond providing, placement and managing of employees to include contributing to the competitive advantage of the organization by investing in quality human capital.

HR strategy is built using three models (Pilbeam and Corbridge, 2010): best practices; which is the general or universal HR practices that yield a standardized outcome regardless of the organization or industry, best fit practices; suggests that there are practices that are business/organization specific and resource-based practices; which sees human resource as an essential resource to achieving competitive edge, growth and superior performance.

The role of a HR strategist focus is on full participation in the business management team, designing and implementing strategic HR practices and system in other to build the organizations capacity, in addition manage HR practices and services at the point of delivery( Blancero, Boroski and Dyer, 1995). In their study, five unique competencies were identified in regards to customer awareness and ability to leverage on resources for goals accomplishment.

Business strategy: provides the framework within which HR activities should be channeled.

Human resource planning: this is to ensure the objectives of the firm are achieved through developing and implementing human resource strategy.

Vision: establishes the underlining values of strategic HR practice choices.

Organizational change: aims at synchronizing employees behavioral patterns into a wholesome move toward the organization’s goal.  

Value creation: the ultimate achievement from aligning HR strategy and corporate strategy, ranging from customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, competitive advantage and improved performance. 

In conclusion, human resources can be viewed as a link that transforms corporate strategy into successful business performance. The fact still remains that organizational goals can be broken down in workable specific tasks to be carried out by competent employees and the moment employees understand what is expected of them with appropriate incentives and motivation, performance will improve. Researches have shown that various HR practices have individual specific outcomes which when combined could make the world of difference and provide an organization with an edge in a competitive environment. HR strategist connects the dots between business strategy and superior business performance by capitalizing on activities structured towards human resource; recruitment/selection, training/development, employee appraisal/compensation along the lines of increasing competitive advantagess.

Customization and specialization according to the culture of the company should be a characteristic of an HR manager of a strategist. The skills and knowledge domain of HR specialist must be flexible with the company having people oriented approach for a clan cultured company and a leadership and result oriented approach for a market culture of the company. Company such as Google must have an HR strategic as employee oriented and a company such as Zappos should have an autocratic HR leader to manage the globalization.

The matter concerning the fact that HR strategist lack in technology related skills is a concern for the organizations moving towards agile methodologies. Technological skills must form a toolkit for the HR strategists so as to utilize tools and softwares available in the market and leverage its utilities in the development of the organization. HR strategist must be amalgamation of human resource skills and technological skills to become an all rounder in the business. Steve Jobs was a leader who was proficient in human resource skills to be able to motivate an entire generation and excellent in technical skills to innovative various products and services.  

I go in complete agreement with the post talking about HR strategist being the catalyst for connecting the dots of business performance and strategies. HR strategist should be competent to inextricably intertwine the principles of human resource and use of technology. To grow up the line of bridge, HR strategists must claim 5% of their present work to put into valuable and strategic roles. They can leverage the technology and embrace the automation so as to equip the organization with right tools at right time having a bag full of trips and tricks. This post talks about five competencies that a HR strategist must possess which can be enhanced to plentiful of other skills that he must hold to climb up the ladder of success.


1. Hartog, D. N., & Verburg, R. M. (2004). High performance work systems, organisational culture and firm effectiveness.Human Resource Management Journal, 14(1), 55-78.

2. Rao, M. S. (2013). Can HR leaders excel as company chief executive?.Human Resource Management International Digest, 21(5), 3-5.

3. Sparrow, J. (2013). The five key roles of managers: how HR can build engagement that lasts.Strategic HR Review, 12(2), 83-88.

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