Book Review: Strategic HR Management by Karen Beaven

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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’ is Karen Beaven’s work.

Karen is the multi-award-winning former HRD of River Island. And that lends her practitioner’s perspective on what actually constitutes not just strategic HR but HR Excellence.

Its claim of being a practitioner’s toolkit delivers precisely what it says on the tin.

There is something for everyone. It is an excellent guide if you are at the start of your career, trying to figure things out. Or you are trying to learn how to apply your understanding of HR in the work context. It is also handy to a seasoned veteran. It guides you on how to develop yourself and your team to a higher value. Karen has structured the book in a way that encourages the reader to delve into the specific area. However, I recommend you read cover to cover. Some HR practitioners, myself included, are blind to our own shortcomings!

Beaven’s ‘Strategic Human Resource Management’ presents a road map to becoming a leading HR Professional. It also 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. And that allows the reader to delve further into any given area if they so wish.

In fact, the book presents itself as a virtual conversation with an HR mentor. It offers practical advice in every chapter. And it challenges the reader out of their comfort zone. It stretches the reader’s understanding and broadening their HR remit.

Blue book Cover of Strategic Human Resource Management by Karen Beaven
Beyond the traditional role of managing hiring, discipline, and payroll

Knowing Yourself

The book contains case studies from the real world and commentary from other HR practitioners. And Beaven’s own take on strategic human resource management gives insights and adds real value. Karen presents Knowledge (or awareness) as the secret to being, not just a successful HRD, but a true business leader. She breaks it down into four categories. And those are; knowledge of oneself, knowledge of ones’ business, knowledge of ones’ industry, and knowledge of ones’ profession. It provides a knowledge map you can use to assess your current baseline and the actual impact you can have. In that regard, this formula actually transcends strategic HR and applies to any other professional discipline.

Self-awareness is a central message in the book.

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

Understanding ones’ business context is crucial for the HR professional wanting to find their voice in the boardroom. And it begins with being conversant with the language of business. This section of the book highlights the importance of knowing ones’ product or service they offer. It goes on to explore culture and productivity. It also includes some elaboration on the ‘mysterious’ annual results.
Knowing ones’ business ensures the HR leader can be more commercially minded to consider revenue streams. It also makes them aware of 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 an external strategic perspective that covers competition and the business environment impacting on having a successful HR function. And that includes some of the recent legislative changes that have challenged HR departments such as GDPR.

Beyond HR

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

The mandate of the HR professional is broad and goes beyond HR. It 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. Then there is Beaven’s own unique People Experience (PX) model for consideration.

Perspectives on the future of work complete this journey. And that covers trends in the people space and ways of working using design thinking and agile methodology. There is even the mention of the application of blockchain.

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Reading for 30, Writing for 10, and Teaching for 5 minutes is an effective strategy for learning retention

Final Thoughts

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

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