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Making a Difference

Topic tour guide

In a hurry? This page will take you through a brief tour of every section in this topic and will enable you to click on a link should you wish to read more.

The best HR people work on initiatives that directly contribute to achieving the business goals and strategy. Here we provide you with tools and techniques to help you think more strategically or flexibly. We also include tools to help you think with a business outcomes focus rather than from an HR perspective.

What the research tells us

The participants in our study could articulate and understand the business strategy and the key drivers of success. They had a focus on the competition and deep understanding of their industry or sector. They knew how their piece of the business interfaced with the rest of the organisation.

They consistently mentioned the need to think and communicate in business terms and to focus on business outcomes and results, not on HR processes and jargon.

This way of thinking and communicating was a powerful contributor to earning the respect of clients.

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Strategic thinking

What does it mean to be a strategic thinker?  This section helps to answer this question and give some tools to help you move to being more strategic. 

  • Developing a strategic mindset

Use this checklist to evaluate your strengths as a strategic thinker.

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  • Enhancing your strategic thinking

Most strategic thinkers have a number of characteristics in common. In addition, they are skilled at different types of thinking and able to adopt different approaches as the situation demands. This page reviews these.

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  • Strategic thinking and relationships

Part of being strategic is thinking about how your plans will impact on others. This page offers some questions to help consider the broader impact of your plans on people and relationships.

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  • Business alignment

This questionnaire helps you to identify how well HR is linking actions to the business strategy and goals. Consider where you and your team are focused, and the level of consistency. Most people will have an area of strength. Consider whether the area of strength is the most relevant for your organisation at this time.

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  • Strategy versus tactical

Get strategic and then stay strategic. But what does ‘strategy’ actually mean? This page gives some simple definitions and then offers two ideas of how to be strategic.

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  • Moving to a strategic approach

One of the things that HR practitioners struggle with is moving to a strategic approach when it has been focused on administration and a more transaction service. There are number of steps you can take to signal that you are changing this practice.

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Thinking differently

Part of being strategic is thinking more flexibly and taking a broader perspective. This section gives a number ways to do this.

  • Thinking broadly

Managers who think strategically are able to see the big picture. When dealing with issues, they operate from a broad perspective, rather than taking a narrow view. They consider both the long and short-term implications.

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  • Onion thinking

This is a method to help you think more openly about a problem or the factors that may influence a decision. You may also use this tool on a current situation in the business to analyse the different influences.

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  • Analytical/intuitive approach to solving problems

This explores the impact of different approaches on our decision making and problem solving. Knowing which you tend to prefer will help you to bring more balance to your thinking.

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  • Mind mapping

Mind maps are a very useful method of capturing all the elements that you need to take into consideration when identifying options and priorities. Here are some guidelines for creating mind maps.

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  • Using your intuitive mind

These days strategy is not just about analysis and rational thinking. Increasingly, the role of intuition is recognised as valid in developing strategy. Use this page to help you build your intuitive mind.

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  • Scanning

This tool takes a pro active approach to searching the business for potential problems and opportunities.

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  • Dilemmas

Charles Hampton Turner found that companies that recognised the dilemmas they faced (and solved them) outperformed those that allowed one side of their dilemma to dominate their strategy or decision making or who flip-flopped between the two sides of the dilemma.

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Business outcomes focus

HR practitioners in our research consistently mentioned the need to think and communicate in business terms and to focus on business outcomes and results, not on HR processes and jargon. This section gives some tools and models to help you focus on business outcomes as well as ways of prioritising where to put your focus to get the most return for the business.

  • Connecting initiatives to business outcomes

This tool is useful in reconnecting initiatives to overall business goals. Many HR departments find that they are clear on their goals and pretty clear on their main change initiatives, but it is often hard to see where they connect with each other and even harder to detect whether business critical goals are adequately addressed.

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  • Prioritising initiatives

When there are lots of demands from the business it can be hard to identify which projects to do, which to eliminate and which to re-focus. The following matrix provides an approach to assessing current projects with a view to stopping low value initiatives, and reassigning resources to higher value ones.

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  • Visible measuring

One way to improve the execution of initiatives is to create visible measures of your goals, so that as many people as possible can see whether you are on track.

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  • Working smarter – aligning to business outcomes

This template is designed to encourage you to identify the 20 per cent of effort that will yield you 80 per cent of results, working smarter not harder.

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Useful financial terms

Being clear on how the work you are undertaking is contributing to the overall business performance enables you to prioritise your work effectively as well as have business conversations with business clients. This section includes help to build your business acumen.

  • Understanding and measuring financial performance

Having a good understanding of the organisation’s financial performance is critical for an HR professional. This page outlines the key measure of financial performance Return on Investment.

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Quick and easy habits

The more often you practice these skills the more you will embed them until they become a habit. This section gives you a list of quick and easy actions to do this. It includes quick and easy habits to Develop yourself, Ways to use these strengths more and ideas to Build these skills with others.

Other resources

Click here for a list of books and websites for further reading and for a summary of other topics in the Success Kitbag.