In an earlier post, strategy maps were discussed with emphasis on how organizations use human capital as a foundational element of their success. Such maps are diagrams that clearly show the relationships between key areas of the organization and how they work together to achieve strategic objectives.
However, they are also valuable as HR tools because they can force the discipline of deliberately linking everything that HR does to organizational goals. Strategy maps are valuable because they guarantee connectedness, clarity, and communication between what HR does and what the organization needs.
Making the Connection
Human resources experts say there must be a line-of-sight connection between HR and what is most important to the organization and its customers. Maps either confirm or expose gaps in our thinking. Maps can be useful as blueprints, checklists, or quality assurance devices that verify that the proper linkages are made and that everyone understands them. This understanding highlights the second element: clarity.
The Value of Clarity
If everyone knows and understands what the most important things are, they are able to devote more of their time, effort, and attention to these things. This leads them to perform better and have greater impact.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a strategy map is a thousand times better than dozens of reports, corporate memos, and speeches. A map that is clear enough for everyone to "get it" upon initial review is priceless. As a practical matter, the ability to circulate, post, and refer to a picture creates a better platform for discussion because everyone is viewing a problem from the same vantage point. Strategy maps can improve operations because they enable good discussions about plans and goals.
Map to Success
Here are a few examples that demonstrate the value of strategy maps. A manufacturing organization needs to manage its overall costs so that its bids are more competitive for government contracts.
An HR strategy in support of this goal might be cost containment. This is achieved by a) reducing total labor costs, b) increasing employee competencies, and c) lowering absenteeism.
The activities undertaken to reduce labor costs are setting narrower hiring bands, shifting resources from salaries to benefits to leverage the value of total compensation, and building a culture that supports cost consciousness (i.e. waste reduction, doing more with less, cross-training, etc.).
Targeted activities to build employee skills include continuous learning, structured on-the-job training programs, and periodic testing of employees to ensure they know what they are supposed to know.
Absenteeism is controlled by aggressive supervisor monitoring, posting of absences by team, and bonuses for teams with the best attendance rates. Now imagine a graphic that shows the relationships between these key elements:
This kind of strategy map is worth a million bucks. It produces clarity, guides action, serves as a constant reminder of the most important variables, and it provides meaning by ensuring every employee knows how their individual actions are connected to strategic goals.
Empowering for Success
A consulting firm with a growth strategy might empower associates by positioning them as helpful experts in clients' eyes. Several internal HR systems are built to equip associates with the skills and tools they need to succeed.
The service delivery model could place associates onsite with clients, teach them customer service techniques, as well as educate them on ways of anticipating customer needs. An added bonus would be allowing associates the latitude to give clients more service than they paid for, when needed.
The expertise of associates could be built through hiring only seasoned professionals with strong track records, creating an extensive learning academy, and building an automated learning management system that keeps knowledge resources at their fingertips. Can you imagine a picture that shows a convergence of activity around associate support?
Appreciating Employee Contributions
A non-profit's core HR strategy is treating volunteers like team members. Therefore, volunteer recruitment, training, and engagement would be the most important activities the organization carries out besides its service to clients.
Volunteers would benefit from knowing how much they are appreciated. Volunteers who recruit and train other volunteers might be the "silver bullet" that makes the organization successful. Yet, volunteers who do not have a good experience could become the organization's Achilles' heel. How might the criticality of these activities be presented to everyone inside the organization, including volunteers?
To make sure that everyone knows and understands what is important and how their contributions lead to organizational success, the dots must be connected. Developing an HR strategy and then graphically presenting this strategy serves multiple purposes-all of which drive performance. An HR strategy map would first confirm that the strategy makes sense. Next, the clarity of a visual representation of complex ideas makes the topic accessible to all. It is equally as important for individuals to see themselves in the picture. Employees will perform better if they know how what they do is connected to other parts of the organization. This is as reassuring as it is empowering.
Finally, an HR strategy map is a convenient method of communicating in a way that everyone "gets it." Executives, managers, employees, partners, vendors, and all stakeholders who view the strategy map will have a better understanding of the organization and its strategic goals. Better understanding should lead to better performance execution.