There is a big difference between good HR and proactive HR – the difference between HR being important versus worth its weight in gold. We tend to think of HR as practical and reactive to standard issues. Recruitment, retention, employee relations issues (discipline, grievances), pay and benefits, all spring to mind. Certainly, getting these fundamentals right is always critical.

But proactive HR requires a deeper level of understanding and a more collaborative approach to these issues. The positive impact it can have on your business is significant.

HR policies and procedures often times seem fairly black-and-white, while business certainly is not. Business is complex and evolving, and its success depends on many factors. That means that HR needs to have a deep level of understanding of its value chain – what are the inputs and outputs that make the business tick. This includes understanding business priorities and values, and then ensuring that all employee-related practices relate to these and contribute to achieving the goals of the organization.

Earlier, I referenced the practical side of HR, which includes ensuring processes are in place, such as: onboarding new hires and performance reviews; a system recruitment that is well managed to the extent that the right skills and abilities are captured when selecting new staff; ensuring interviews are fair, legal, and well managed; and the creation of policies and procedures that reflect the company’s vision and values. A proactive HR team will also ensure that all of the above processes are aligned to what the business is seeking to achieve both now and in the future. A proactive HR team will consider longer term resource and financial planning when bringing on new talent. Having a proactive team is all about providing a secondary layer of depth to the top level process.

Recruitment is always important but often more complex than it is given credit for. Attracting the right people is just the first step. Ensuring the right people are paid right, and recognizing what new recruits potentially bring to the table, is vital. This means we need to find innovative ways to attract and reward. We tend to think purely in terms of dollars in this respect, but a reward may not necessarily take this form, considering the values of the organization and the people concerned. A proactive HR team will help you identify the right approach as well as the right package, fulfilling the double role of successful recruiter and public relations expert by improving brand reputation.

Oftentimes HR is on the forefront of incorporating change into an organization. For example, when a new law comes into effect, such as the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. A proactive HR department will take the lead on this, anticipating the change, and figuring out how to respond and administer the new development, protecting the organization’s reputation for being forward-thinking, fair, and compliant. It’s not just about handling grievances when they occur as a result of the legal change – it’s about making sure those situations never arise because things were handled and communicated well in advance. The landscape of business has changed so dramatically over the past few years. Just being good enough is not enough anymore. Being responsive just won’t cut it! For HR, this means being proactive, being innovative and efficient, being visionary. This approach could be the difference between a good business and great business.

Author Profile

Richard Finger
Richard Finger
Richard Finger has worked in Human Resources for over 20 years and has worked with small, private organizations, global corporations, and most currently, a healthcare organization. Richard has worked abroad a number of years in England as well as The Netherlands, where he acquired a great appreciation for cultural awareness. He currently holds three Human Resource Certifications (SHRM-SCP, SPHR, SPHRi), and is also teaching the SHRM-CP/SHRM-SCP preparation course at Howard County Community College. Richard earned his Bachelor Degree in Psychology at University of Central Florida, and Master Degree in Human Resources Management & Labor Relations at New York Institute of Technology. Richard has been writing for Baltimore Outloud for a number of years, contributing articles about his Human Resources experiences, as well as moonlighting as the author of Finger's Food restaurant reviews. Richard has enjoyed writing for the paper, and looks forward to many more opportunities to do so.