How to Align HR & Business Goals in 5 Steps

The ability to connect HR initiatives to larger business goals is the most critical skill for HR pros. Our 5 step guide show you how to make that happen.

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What’s the most critical skill of an HR leader? Thorough knowledge of employee health benefits software? Strong culture ambassador? Superior conflict resolution skills? According to recent research, it’s the ability to connect HR initiatives to the strategic initiatives of the business. But how do you do align business goals with HR goals? We’ve outlined a five step process to help you cultivate the most in-demand HR skill and drive success for your business:

Step 1: Define success

In order to have a place at the decision-making table, HR must understand the business’s broad strategic goals and direction. If these aren’t clear to all parties involved, not only is it an obstacle for the business, but it’ll be difficult for HR to align and support those objectives. Consider asking key business stakeholders like your CFO, CEO, and other members of your C-suite some of the following questions:

  • “What are the organization’s key business KPI?”
  • “How can HR play a role in helping to drive those KPI?
  • “What’s the best way for HR to support the C-suite?”

The responses to those questions should arise clear directives for HR, such as:

  • Reduce cost
  • Increase productivity
  • Go green

Step 2: Align & set your HR goals

Once you’ve clearly defined success in your organization, it’s time to articulate the goals of HR. If this is your first time doing this, you might need to make an educated guess about what’ll be successful, and test that hypothesis to find out if you’re right. For example:

Business Objective HR Hypotheses/Objective
Reduce costs
  • Decrease turnover/increase retention
  • Reduce vendor and/or labor costs
Increase productivity
  • Evaluate the efficacy of your onboarding process
  • Automate admin work with software tools
Go green
  • Organize volunteer opportunities
  • Go paperless and conserve

These HR hypotheses could be great ways to align with the specific business objectives of your C-suite. However, they remain abstract and nebulous—how exactly are you going to decrease turnover? Now is the time to test out some specific actions.

Step 3: Formulate specific actions to hit those goals

“We’re going to increase retention!” is a statement, not a plan of action. Without any strategy or way to measure it won’t give you true alignment (and it won’t prove what you’re doing is really working, either). Instead, create specific, targeted actions that actualize your objectives. For example:

HR Objective Action
Decrease turnover/increase retention
  • Create and distribute employee satisfaction surveys to take the temperature of your employees. Include questions like:
    • What’s the most difficult part of your job?
    • How can the company improve?
    • Rate your satisfaction with your compensation.
  • Use the data from this survey to implement specific retention-reducing tactics. For instance, if very few are satisfied with their compensation, you could talk to your C-suite about this pain point. If many people are saying that the culture needs to be improved, you could begin a culture club to address the issue.
Evaluate the efficacy of your onboarding process
  • Go digital with onboarding: get all of your new hire paperwork online and completed before their first day.
  • Also, include and inform new hires of structured milestones for the first few months to track and ensure onboarding is moving quickly and efficiently.

Step 4: Get everyone to buy in

In order to achieve true alignment, you need to get everyone at the table more than once. Once you’ve created your HR game plan complete with specific actions, that you return to your business leaders, get them involved and make sure they feel your plan truly aligns.

Step 5: Measure

Whether this is your first or fifteenth time aligning your HR goals with your business, it’s of the utmost importance to measure your progress. If you want to definitively demonstrate the ways in which your HR is supporting your business, you need to have the data to back it up. While this may seem obvious, only 25% of organizations have relevant HR data available to necessary stakeholders.

Here’s some examples of the type of measurement that can be helpful to stakeholders:

Action Measurement
Employee Satisfaction surveys
  • Conduct employee satisfaction surveys at set intervals (e.g., every quarter or year). Compare the surveys to previous ones in order to see if any progress was made and where.
Digitize onboarding paperwork
  • Compare time and cost for onboarding before and after digitizing to see where savings have been made.

Aligning HR goals and business goals doesn’t need to be an overwhelming task if you break it down into steps, set clear goals, and measure along the way. So, why aren’t more HR departments taking these steps?

According to Aberdeen, nearly half of organizations feel that HR is bogged down with administrative tasks. The reality is if HR professionals are too busy filling out paperwork, or answering benefits questions, they’ll never have the time to do the crucial tasks necessary for true alignment. Having one tool that decreases all of this repetitive work is an efficient and smart way to free your HR owner to focus on more strategic tasks. Without HR fully at the table, your company is missing out on perspectives and strategies that are necessary for success.

So, ready to take action?

Are you where you need to be to realize these steps? Our quiz can help you determine the places where you can boost your efficiency and improve the alignment between your HR initiatives and business goals.


This blog was originally published on January 14, 2016.

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