Strategic Human Resources Practices in Action #SHRM15

SHRM2015Earlier this week I spoke about HR strategy at the SHRM Conference in Las Vegas, and I wanted to provide some follow up thoughts here. My goal with the session was to take away the mystery and intrigue surrounding strategic thinking and make it as simple as possible to understand. As I prepared for my session, I searched the full list of topics at the conference. The results amazed me.

As Mollie mentioned in her blog, there were over 100 sessions with “strategy” or “strategic” listed as part of the content. In addition, one of the preconference sessions, which involved an additional fee, was sold out ahead of time. The topic? Developing metrics to measure results of strategic initiatives.

Clearly there is a desire for business leaders to understand these concepts, but my belief is that the challenge for many is getting from idea to action. In other words, we know how this works, but how do we do it? I’ve written about the topic before and that covered the question fairly well.

Getting serious about strategy

While this is often thought of on a macro level across the organization, it’s also important to keep this top of mind for separate functional leaders as well. For instance, how can talent acquisition help with driving higher revenue, or how can learning and development improve employee engagement?

In my session, I made a point to step away from theory and vague concepts and talk about how real companies solved real problems. And we didn’t just talk about pie-in-the-sky ideas and fuzzy math. We looked at hard, measurable results for each of the programs to drive home this idea–to know whether a strategic initiative is successful, specific KPI’s must be set and then measured against.

By the way, looking for those measurable results is something that we at Brandon Hall Group do pretty well (we published more than 180 corporate case studies last year, to give you an idea). Below I’ll give you a brief overview of two of those organizations, the challenges they faced, and how the human resources practices played into resolving those problems.


What it does: Horizon is a 3,000 employee, Turkey-based organization with revenues of $1.3 billion that sells consumable goods through local markets.

Business challenge: Horizon had recently consolidated several pieces of the organization to flatten its structure. The issue was in having sales staff that were trained to sell product X, but now they were required to sell products A, B, C, and D as well. Sales performance was taking a hit, and the leadership knew it needed to resolve the issue before it spiraled out of control.

Solution: Horizon developed a sales onboarding and training program that led to several interesting results:

  • +700% increase in job applications for sales roles
  • Turnover for sales roles dropped from ~30% down to around 5%
  • Graduates from the sales training program saw an average of 4.5% improvement over existing staff performance


What it does: Turkcell is a billion-dollar Middle Eastern telecommunications provider supporting more than 70 million customers in 9 countries.

Business challenge: The company realized that it was not aligned when it came to business performance and incentive compensation. The two were unlinked, leading to instances where corporate performance dropped, but compensation stayed flat or even went up. Leaders knew they had to make a change to remain competitive and align employee efforts with business goals. LINK

Solution: Turkcell devised a new competency system and compensation model, allowing them to simplify the process while improving employee alignment with the organization. A few key results:

  • Reduced from 25 KPI’s down to 5, eliminating clutter and redundancy in the performance management process
  • Steeper payout curve, meaning employees were heavily incentivized to perform above average
  • The business saw 7% revenue growth after the program was implemented

The theme

The theme here, as in my presentation, was to look for HR solutions to business problems. Maybe it’s a learning need. Or possibly there’s an opportunity to introduce better talent management practices. Whatever the case, it starts with a business problem and strategy and is followed by HR planning that rolls up into the overall solution. As technology and globalization allow businesses to be increasingly automated and dispersed, having innovative human capital management strategies will help to differentiate those organizations willing to make talent a priority.

Ben Eubanks, Associate HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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