HR’s Role in Success


Who is more important to an organization’s strategic planning? HR associates who are:

  • Partners, that is, those who openly exchange information with the business about current issues, collaboratively working toward mutual goals
  • Reactors, those who ensure compliance with policies and practices and respond to business needs by providing tools and systems when asked.

For decades, HR units across the world attempted to make the shift from being reactors to being partners. Indeed, according to Development Dimensions International’s 2015 Global Leadership Forecast, 60 percent of HR professionals polled classified themselves as “partners.”

But many in the field believe it’s time for HR departments to go from being partners in their companies’ strategic plans to playing the role of “anticipator.” True to the name, anticipators constantly look for what might come next. They work with their companies’ leaders to predict future talent gaps and strive to close the gap. They are also able to proactively advise leaders on the probability of their strategies succeeding based on the available talent and its quality. Anticipators are far more likely than their partner or reactor counterparts to be part of their organization’s strategic planning process.

According to DDI, anticipators do six things differently from partners or reactors. Anticipators:

  1. Focus on programs that foster employee creativity and innovation.
  2. Position leadership development as an integrated journey rather than an independent series of events.
  3. Institute negative consequences for managers who fail to develop their leaders.
  4. Ensure that a higher percentage of leaders are promoted from within.
  5. Help leaders be more ready to meet the CEO challenge of human capital.
  6. Use advanced workforce analytics, particularly those that involve forecasting future talent needs.

However, as DDI found, less than 20 percent of HR professionals consider themselves anticipators. Yet the intensive involvement of HR anticipators pays off big for their organizations, which are three times more likely to have stronger leadership bench strength and over six times more likely to have exhibited strong financial performance than organizations with HR reactors or partners.

Companies need to ask themselves how involved they want their HR professionals to be in their strategic plans. If they want to see the kind of success that companies with HR anticipators have, they need to bring their human resources staff into the planning process, instead of having them in a reactor or partner role.