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Book Review: ‘Strategic Human Resource Management’ by Karen Beaven

By February 4, 2019HR Management Tips

Strategic Human Resource Management: An HR Professionals Toolkit

Great! Just what we need, another book on HR and how to behave strategically. Is that what you are thinking? Think again! This is not just another academic book on HR strategy with the typical chapters on Performance Management, Employee Relations etc. This is something special, authored by someone even more special. ‘Strategic Human Resource Management: An HR Practitioner’s Toolkit’ written by Karen Beaven, the multi-award-winning former HRD of River Island, lending her practitioner’s perspective on what actually constitutes not just strategic HR but HR Excellence.

Its claim of being a practitioner’s toolkit delivers exactly what it says on the tin. There is something for everyone, whether you are at the start of your career trying to figure things out and how to apply your understanding of HR in the work context, or a seasoned veteran wanting guidance on how to develop yourself and your team to add greater value. The way the book is structured encourages the reader to delve into the specific area they need guidance on, although, I would recommend it is read from cover to cover. Some HR practitioners, myself included, are blind to our own shortcomings!

Strategic Human Resource Management, Karen Beaven, Book Cover

Beaven’s ‘Strategic Human Resource Management’ presents a road map to becoming a leading HR Professional and offers a new innovative model for developing oneself. It is an easy read and, thankfully, avoids excessive use of jargon. Whilst not an academic piece of work, it is still well referenced should the reader wish to delve further into any given area. In fact, the book presents itself as a virtual conversation with an HR mentor. It offers practical advice in every chapter and challenges the reader to get out of their comfort zone by stretching their understanding and broadening their HR remit.

Knowing Yourself

Littered with case studies from the real world and commentary from other HR practitioners, Beaven’s take on strategic human resource management adds real value and insights. Knowledge (or awareness) is presented as the secret to being, not just a successful HRD, but a true business leader. This is broken down into four categories, namely, knowledge of ones’ self, knowledge of ones’ business, knowledge of ones’ industry and knowledge of ones’ profession. It uses a knowledge map to self assess the current baseline with the actual impact being had. In that regard, this formula actually transcends strategic HR and is applicable to any other professional discipline.

Self-awareness underscores an important message. It is all about YOU, the individual in order to be of value to others. Self-awareness includes critical elements such as purpose, passion and developing ‘bounceabilty’, a phrase coined by Karen Beaven, essential for every HR professional to be resilient enough to be prepared to fight for your dream.

Understanding ones’ business context is crucial for the HR professional wanting to find their voice in the boardroom by being conversant with the language of business. This section of the book highlights the importance of knowing ones’ product or service being offered and goes onto exploring culture, productivity and even includes some elaboration on the ‘mysterious’ annual results.

Knowing ones’ business ensures the HR leader is equipped to be more commercially minded to consider revenue streams, markets and technological advancements whilst not losing sight of purpose and values.

Knowledge of ones’ industry emphasises the importance of going beyond ones’ own business and thinking about the wider industry. This is a strategic external perspective that covers competition and the business environment impacting on having a successful HR function including some of the recent legislative changes that have challenged HR departments such as GDPR in recent times.

Beyond HR

The final part of Beaven’s ‘Strategic Human Resource Management’ focuses on knowing ones’ profession. So, naturally, it covers the main professional bodies of HR with accreditation and continuous personal development (CPD) being critical to building an HR professional fit for purpose through having the ability to demonstrate tangible results.

The mandate of the HR professional is broadened to go beyond HR and includes being a business leader as well as responsibility for the profession itself. Career frameworks include CIPD’ s professional map and SHRM’s competency model but also Beaven’s unique People Experience (PX) model for consideration.

Perspectives on the future of work complete this journey ranging from trends in the people space to ways of working using design thinking and agile methodology to the application of blockchain.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, Beaven’s ‘Strategic Human Resource Management: An HR Professionals Toolkit’ really is great and is exactly what you need, even if you do not know it right now! A comprehensive rethink of what it means to be an HR professional, leaving behind conventional thinking and models, whilst embracing the new world of work.


For further useful HR tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to People Management Skills. Also, don’t forget to check out our YouTube Channel and our award-winning blog to see more helpful HR Management Tips and articles.

About Shakil Butt

Shakil Butt (FCIPD, FCCA) is a values-driven, accomplished, award-winning HR professional, with over 20 years of experience leading an award-winning global HR team in a multi-faith, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural environment. Now working as an independent consultant, Shakil adds value engaging with organisations and individuals with their HR and OD challenges and executive support. Shakil has been part of various senior management teams leading on strategic direction, organisational development and change management in multiple organisations. Shakil enjoys writing and contributing to articles on HR and management and regularly speaks at HR conferences and events.

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