How to Craft a Smart and Thoughtful HR Strategy

Editor’s Note: Dr. John Sullivan has been a provocateur and strategist in the field of human resources and talent management for over 30 years. His specialty is HR strategy and designing world class HR systems and tools for Fortune 200 firms, and he’s never been shy about telling it like it is.

That’s why TLNT asked him to share his thinking in a video series titled “$#*!@ Dr. John Sullivan Says!” Look for these videos twice a week here at TLNT.

Today’s topic: Crafting an HR strategy

When HR people say they want to be strategic, it is important that they know just what that entails. Dr. John has a four-point definition of what it is to be strategic, and he says it is:

  • Multi-year;
  • Cross-functional;
  • Impacts one of the major business goals or initiatives; and,
  • Looks at competitors and the external environment.

Although it is good to be strategic, he says, you also need to be tactical and focused on day-to-day activities, too. Good HR is usually a combination of both.

Most HR organizations, Dr. John points out, don’t have a written HR strategy that includes forecasts, what should be done, and what shouldn’t be done. Strategy is about focus, he says, and not about creating a document but rather, in creating a new way of thinking because you want all managers in HR to be thinking ahead.

You also need to look at the best strategies you can find, but focus on business and NOT other HR strategies so you can identify world-class characteristics you can add to yours.

Article Continues Below

But, be careful of the word “align,” Dr. John says, because you really can’t measure in HR if your organization is “aligned” in a business context.

Overall, it is important that the creation of an HR strategy be done in conjunction with the organization’s business plan, but in Dr. John’s view, 98 percent of them aren’t — and that’s a mistake if you want to develop an HR strategy that is truly meaningful and works.

Did you miss the last segment of$#*!@ Dr. John Sullivan Says!” on “The Six Critical Factors HR Professionals Need to be Successful.” You can see it here.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *