“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people not on strategies.” 

This quote by Lawrence Bossidy, the Ex-CEO of AlliedSignal holds true now more than ever. The year 2020 proved that it's neither the process nor the strategy but people who stand as the focal point of all business endeavors. There is a stark difference between processes that drive people and processes driven by people. Studies have proved that when an organization, especially the human resource function, values and engages its employees as stakeholders and drivers of growth, the organizational growth happens even in midst of most trying circumstances.

As a case study, let’s explore how the Big Basket responded to the sudden workforce loss during the early stages of the pandemic. It has been quoted the company lost almost 80 percent of its ground operational staff in March owing to the two days lockdown. The HR team almost hired a record number of 12,300 people in just 16 days to meet the herculean amount of online orders. Hari Menon, CEO of Big Basket shared that the way the HR team responded to the crisis was the result of Big Basket being a learning organization. He said, “An organization needs to be a learning organization and the first thing we did at Big Basket was set up an excellent training and innovation function. Learning elements of culture and managing people is more critical than being a technocrat and understanding technology since that can be outsourced as long as you know where your organization is headed”. This very quote resonates with Lawrence Bossidy’s thought. To build a strong and resilient organization, the role played by the human resource function becomes mission-critical. 

The question is how does the HR function achieve this seamless convergence between people, process, strategy, and organizational goals? The answer lies in understanding the principles of strategic human resource management in 2021 and these are:

  • Understanding of the company's goals and objectives - This is a key step and starting point of all HR activities. The Human resource team has this pivotal role of understanding the organizational goals and translating them into employee KRAs across all the other functions. This helps align everyone to the organization.
  • Evaluating the human resource capabilities - The HR leadership needs to build a skill inventory for every employee and map it with organizational goals. This helps in devising training programs for the employee so that newer capabilities can be built. 
  • Analyzing human resource capabilities in light of company goals - The HR leadership must see the big picture wherein each employee with his or her distinctive skills can contribute to the growth of the organization. Strategic HR management is all about identifying such employees and placing them in the right position. 
  • Forecasting HR needs - The forecasting has to be done about the demand and supply in terms of hiring new employees to meet functional requirements. Forecasting enables HR function to understand the efficacy of HR strategies and also to what extent the skills of the employees are getting utilized. 
  • Identifying requisite tools for operational efficiency – HR function has the important task of communicating with cross-functional departments to understand the efficacy of tools used by the employees for achieving operational efficiency. 
  • Implementing the HR Strategy for building a capable workforce - This starts at the time of recruitment. Identifying potential employees whose skillsets map with the larger picture of organizational goals, recruiting them, designing an impactful employee onboarding, and employee engagement are four critical steps towards implementing HR strategy.
  • Reviewing performance metrics and undertaking corrective action - Reviewing and measuring the performance of strategies that have been implemented is critical in terms of the attainment of organizational goals. Periodic reviews enable HR leaders to identify redundancies in the process and take corrective measures.

The suggested way to upskill here is by exploring progremmes like  the Executive Programme in Human Resource Management (EPHRM) by IIM Calcutta. This program aims to empower professionals aspiring to grow in the domain of HRM with the mental tool kit and best practices of strategic HRM. The program content is vast leaving no stone unturned in terms of knowledge transfer. The curriculum also covers contemporary HR issues backed by case stories to make the learning impactful.