Strategically Reactive and Strategically Proactive Human Resource Management

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Over time the importance of the value of human resources (HR) to its firm has increased. The management of human resources went from being operational to strategic, which are the two levels of HR, and from reactive to proactive. The HR field may organize its thinking about the past, present, and future around the framework that results from the combination of both proactive and reactive HR. Operational HR activities generally refer to the routing, day-to-day delivery of HR basics. The strategic level of HR activity is more difficult to explain and involves five criteria:

Long term-whether the activity would add value in the distant future as opposed to the near future. •Comprehensive-whether the activity involves the entire organization or individual departments or parts. •Planned-whether the activity is thought out before it is done or if it is done on the spur of the moment. •Integrated-whether it would bring other separated activities together. •High value added-whether it focuses on business, financial and market success of not.

The two approaches to the management of HR that would be discussed are strategically reactive and strategically proactive. Reactive human resource management waits for problems to happen before something is done about it, e.g. waits for someone to quit before even thinking of a replacement or training for that replacement. Whereas proactive human resource management anticipates needs or problems and attempts prevent them. Both strategically proactive and strategically reactive HR are used to add value to an organization. In his book Strategic Human Resource Management, Mello explained the terms strategically reactive and strategically proactive as:

Strategically reactive HR focuses on implementing the business strategy; that is, given a clearly formulated business strategy (e.g., growth, new product, innovation, cycle reduction, new market entry), how can HR help support is successful implementation? Such activities include identifying and developing the technical knowledge, tactical skills, and business culture that are consistent with the demands of the business strategy. They may also include facilitating change management and organizing HR into service centers. (Mello, Jeffery A., 2006, p. 238)

Strategically proactive HR focuses on creating future strategic alternatives. Such activities include creating a culture of innovation and creativity; identifying merger and acquisition possibilities and creating internal capabilities that continually track and align with the marketplace for products, markets and capital with their respective lead indicators. (Mello, Jeffery A., 2006, p. 238)

The process of what is strategy and how it should be developed can be outlined by two major models. The first model is the industrial organization model (I/O model). This model argues that to develop the organization one must study the external environment which the organization is in and make a decision based on these conditions. This is reactive because the organization responds to threats or opportunities posed by the external environment. The other major model is the resourced-based model which is also called the resource-based view (RBV) of the firm. This model argues that the organization looks at its internal resources and what it is capable of, instead of the external environment, and makes its decision. The resource based model is proactive in that there must be a plan to acquire or keep resources and also how these resources are used to add strategic value.

The traditional image of HR professionals, whose primary task is to conduct transactions at the request of employees and managers, is gradually fading in favour of their integration into organizational management and the updating of their skills to improve the contribution they make. In other words, HR professionals are increasingly becoming full partners who play an active role in their organization’s strategic activities. HR...
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