How to Become a More Strategic HR Leader

How to Become a More Strategic HR Leader
Marketing Director

There’s been a big push lately for human resources departments to be more “strategic,” but what does that really mean? And how does it work in healthcare?

“Strategic HR is about being an adviser to the business while being laser-focused on connecting the capabilities of individuals to organizational success,” says Robin Schooling, an HR consultant with experience as an HR leader in healthcare. Even in the largest of healthcare enterprises, the performance of every person affects success through patient outcomes, quality of care and satisfaction scores, she says.

Dawn Rose, Executive Director of the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration, says there are several ways healthcare HR leaders can be more strategic across many of their efforts:

  • By being more inclusive of diverse perspectives.
  • By taking a long-term approach to decision-making.
  • By integrating disciplines across the organization to better solve problems.
  • By using HR’s inherent strengths to manage relationships, create credibility and accessibility across departments, and influence culture.

Here are some ways you can use that approach to become a more strategic healthcare HR leader.

Go Beyond Compliance

Working in human resources in healthcare can seem like an endless loop of screening, license checks and training, Schooling says. “But it’s important that HR leaders in healthcare ensure they don’t just put out the same fires year after year; being strategic means taking the time to confer with peers (the CMO, Director of Nursing, CFO) regularly to determine if strategies and long-term HR plans are in alignment with the organization’s objectives and can be supported by the organization’s employees.”

There are five factors HR can use to help boost that alignment, Rose says:

  • HR delivery. Ensure individual employees’ goals tie into the organization’s mission and vision, and then measure the deliverables around those goals, Rose says.
  • Healthcare business knowledge. HR employees are in an excellent position to track workforce policy issues from changes in billing and patient services to see the impact they have on employees, Rose says. Using business knowledge to inform HR decisions can help make them more effective.
  • People strategies. HR leaders can lead the way in retention, recruitment and satisfaction initiatives. “The impact on culture is where HR leadership can influence the alignment,” she says.
  • Community citizenship. By building internal and external relationships, HR employees can create opportunities for continuous learning and mentorship.
  • Personal excellence. HR is seen as trusted and accountable. By upholding that role through personal excellence, HR leaders can serve as an organization’s mission and value in action.

Build Bridges

Working with other departments and employees can help bridge communication gaps across the organization, Rose says.

“I recommend scheduling a meeting with department leaders at least once a quarter to ask them about the biggest challenges that their teams are facing to meet strategic goals. Then, ask how HR can support them in achieving their goals,” says Jennifer McClure, President of Unbridled Talent. “By staying in touch with colleagues and how their priorities are progressing and changing, HR can keep pace with any changes and ensure that their efforts are focused in the right place.”


While healthcare innovation is more often associated with new surgical techniques or advances in technology, there is plenty of room in HR to try new things. Because things change in healthcare so quickly, McClure says it's important that HR leaders continue to evaluate their priorities, best practices and tools that are used in their areas. “Healthcare HR should have their own R&D-type function, so that they can keep up with the pace of change in their industry, but also what is necessary to remain competitive for attracting and retaining talent,” she says. “Create safe opportunities to pilot ideas and try new products and methods.”


Through it all, healthcare HR leaders should become comfortable with change. Healthcare HR faces a shifting landscape, Rose says. Dealing with mergers, changing staffing models, recruiting and retention while keeping up-to-date with regulations and the Affordable Care Act is a lot to manage. “It used to be that change was unusual, but now it’s part of the fabric of the way we do things,” she says.

“People who go into healthcare and people who go into HR do it because they love working with people,” Rose says. “When you put both of those together with healthcare HR professionals, that takes it to a higher level. These people work every day to create great workplaces where people love to work and also contribute to an organization that makes a difference for patients, families and communities. No other professional role can have the impact in our healthcare organizations and communities than healthcare HR.”

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