What is strategic human resource management (HRM) and how can your GP practice benefit from it? We consider its place within your practice’s business strategy, human capital management and overall practice performance
Strategic HRM does exactly what you might think; it takes a step back and considers your practice’s options and possibilities for the future, as well as any potential challenges and changes that may be encountered on the journey into that future.
So, while operational HRM oversees the day-to-day operations essential to meeting the needs of your practice staff, a strategic HRM plan will focus on longer-term resourcing issues. It will determine a strategic framework that sets out your HR policies and strategies – such as recruitment and employee training or rewards – matching resources to future needs as defined in your practice’s development plan. A good example of this would be upskilling your reception team to become care navigators so that they can play a greater role in the care of patients – and lighten the workload elsewhere.
By working in this structured way you can ensure that the many individual HRM strategies you might wish to employ – for example, to deliver fair and equitable reward, to improve employee performance, to streamline organisational structure – work together to develop the behaviours and the performance necessary to deliver real value to your practice – and thus your patients. Here are some basic strategic HRM steps to consider.
Tallying your practice’s collective skill set
Assessing your practice’s HR capacity – the skills, abilities and knowledge and ability to develop and innovate – should be the first step. Also known as ‘human capital’, by defining and measuring this you can better understand the human resources that you have at your disposal, harnessing this information to drive performance and improvement in your practice.
How do you acquire this information? Simple; ask your staff! Do they volunteer outside of work? What is their previous employment history? Do they have any interests that they would like to develop? Further, you can use an employee’s performance assessment as an opportunity to ascertain whether they are ready, or willing, to take on more responsibility, or different responsibilities.
Understanding what’s on the horizon
Once you know what you what you have, it’s time to look to the horizon and forecast the people and the skills that you will need to deliver the wider goals of the practice. As with your budget, realistic HR forecasting requires you to estimate both demand and supply. Ask yourself:
- What skills will be needed to fulfil the practice’s goals?
- Do we have those skills in-house, or the potential to grow those skills in-house?
- What positions will need to be created and/or filled?
A strategic approach to HRM will take account of the potential challenges you will encounter – including external challenges such as the impact of changes in the wider health sector. For example;
- NHS funding – will this diminish, and will this impact general practice?
- How will an ageing population affect demand in the practice?
- What are the chances of a practice merger – if one has not already taken place?
- How will the digital revolution affect how the practice operates – will it alleviate workload pressures or redistribute them?
Mind the gap; identify where you are vs. where you want to be
The next part to determine is the journey; you know what you have and what you need – so how do you get there? Essentially, at this stage, you’re comparing your existing human capital and figuring out how to progress this to meet the needs of the practice in the future. Does your practice team have the skills required? Are they in the right position to use and improve their strengths?
You should also look at the HRM practices currently in place – are they adequate for future needs? Identify what can be improved, or what should be introduced, to better support your practice going forward.
Strategic HRM and the wider practice strategy
Your staff – your people – are integral to the sustainability of your practice, it’s growth and development; each provides knowledge and skills that support the practice, so ensuring that they are valued and invested in makes sense. This makes strategic HRM critical to your practice and links it inextricably with your practice’s development strategy – as reflected in elements such as workforce planning.
There are five main HR strategies that will help you take your practice to where it needs to be:
- Restructuring strategies – these include regrouping or redistributing tasks to create well-designed jobs (ensuring you have well-defined job specs to boot!) and reorganising staff to be more efficient, which may result in reducing staff – by termination or attrition – or, potentially, recruiting.
- Training and development strategies – providing staff with opportunities to train with the ambition of taking on new responsibilities, roles or development opportunities to hone existing skills.
- Recruitment strategies – recruiting new staff with the skills and abilities that your practice will need in the future; considering ways to promote job opportunities within the practice alongside ways to promote your practice as a positive place to work. Retention should also be a consideration in this.
- Outsourcing strategies – where there are skill gaps that are not of value to the practice to fill in-house, consider contracting a third-party service provider. For example, if undertaking a partnership review, consider engaging a consultant.
- Collaboration strategies – in primary care there are new initiatives sprouting up across the country which encourage and support collaborative working; however, in addition, there is much your practice can undertake with practices in the local area by the way of collaboration such as sharing costs by training in groups, allowing staff to visit other practices to gain skills and insights. Perhaps you could band together to petition the Practice Managers Association, or other associations, to influence the courses on offer to better suit your needs.
All your work should be fully documented in a HR plan; this will state your objectives and resulting strategies, where the responsibility lies and the timeline by which it will be executed. Once this is in place, having the support of key stakeholders, such as GP partners, practice managers, etc., will be essential, and you also need to ensure the wider practice staff is onboard and understands the reason behind it.
The bones of your plan will need to be communicated throughout the practice and should cover:
- How the plan ties to the organisation’s overall strategic plan.
- What changes in HR management policies, practices and activities will be made to support the strategic plan.
- How any changes in HR management will impact on staff, including a timeframe if appropriate.
- How each individual member of staff can contribute to the plan.
- How staff will be supported through any changes.
- How the organisation will be different in the future.
It’s nearly impossible to communicate too much – but one way to ensure your message is heard is by engaging your practice staff throughout the process.
With all this in mind, one final titbit of advice; HR plans need to be updated on a regular basis. To do so successfully, you will need to evaluate the success of your strategic HRM plan along the way. Set benchmarks and take the time to analyse them!
Now, good luck!