Is HR strategy industry-specific?

February 25, 2016 Geoffroy De Lestrange


Or in other words: does it make any sense to apply different HR strategies to different industries? And more to the point: can an experienced HRD move from one industry to another and remain as relevant and effective?

Sure, HR processes are mostly the same in all industries: recruiting, onboarding, performance reviews, compensation, succession planning… all follow the same pattern in any area – except maybe public sector, as some regulations might demand different types of processes (such as entry exams for recruiting).

But when you go deeper into details, you do have industry-specific elements that need to be taken into account.. For example, pharmaceutical companies and financial institutions both need to ensure their staff are compliant and certified in very specific  areas. If they don’t do this, they may face heavy fines and, beyond the legal aspect, create risks for their customers and stakeholders.

Certification in itself is a fairly straightforward process: you need to train your staff so that they acquire the required knowledge, and you test them thoroughly to verify they have indeed gained the proper competencies. This basically applies everywhere. On the other hand, the certifications you need to sell financial products as demanded by local authorities (FSA, AMF, BaFin …) are obviously not the same as what supervisory bodies in pharma or healthcare want! In consequence, the specific area of focus, or ‘content’ may indeed impact the actual process.  For example, depending on the following questions:

  • Is the certification testing knowledge or behaviour?
  • Is it focusing more on transparency or on security?
  • Is the target group large or very limited?
  • Is the programme broad and relatively easy, or highly specialised and complex?

You’ll need to adapt how you organise the training and the subsequent certification:

  • Very structured learning to ensure that the specified programme is acquired, and formal test (MCQ for example) to verify the assimilation of the content
  • Coaching and mentoring to show the best practices and verify with on-the-job observation that the delegates know the proper behaviour, handling and gestures

Of course, those examples relate to highly defined processes but we can expand it to other HR tasks. Recruiting for example follows the same steps in any company but you might want to adapt your strategy depending on your industry:

  • target different job boards
  • adapt the look & feel of your career site
  • be present in various social networks and advertise consequently
  • adapt campus and graduate communication accordingly

This seems obvious enough. But what does this mean in terms of HR strategy? We can sum it up with the observation that HR professionals already are experts at managing the processes that fall under their responsibility, and that is what is expected from them. On the other hand, HR may want to define a business-impact driven HR strategy that goes beyond simple transaction management.

With this in mind, HR have to become specialists in their industry the same way they have to work very closely with operations. They have to be able to recognise experts from the field when recruiting, be able to define the best possible development plan to train their new hires, understand the technical skills required for a position when planning for succession… All this only work with a profound mastering of the industry, its culture and its subtleties.  More than a business partner, HR now is really involved deep in the success of the business.

About the Author

Geoffroy De Lestrange

Product Marketing & Communication Director EMEA at Cornerstone OnDemand

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