Developing a Strategic HR Mindset: A Model for High Performance Culture

Human Resources play a significant role in educational organizations and institutes for higher learning. This can be seen in traditional institutions, universities, private and state colleges across the country. The human resources department is responsible for managing and maintaining staff, departments, and structural organization. It includes hiring, payouts, benefits, positions, and promotions.  However, being part of a long established educational institution, the role of human resources is often reactive versus proactive. Although change is inevitable, change most often happens when necessary. This can be seen in over budgeting, cost effectiveness, and implementing policy and programs related to emerging technology as well as the social issues of the era. As a result, the HR department at higher education institutions is unable to effectively plan ahead for any possible scenario, improve work culture, and motivate performance.

The current state of higher education organization is ill effective. With the entrance and rise of for-profit educational institutions, human resources must implement a strategy to maintain a competitive advantage over the competition. For-profit education offers the ease of online instruction and structural strategies for student educational goals. The rising cost of higher education continues to be a problem, as a result. “HRM must … constantly reinvent themselves that allows them to better contribute to the people served, the organizations that are shaped, and the societies in which they are incorporated”, (Losey, Meisinger, & Ulrich, 2005). To develop a strategic HR mindset, various factors must be utilized and implemented into organizational infrastructure. A strategy must be developed to establish change and encourage productivity, performance, and profitability within traditional higher education institutions.

There are five qualifying criteria for strategic management, these include:

  • Broad Impact
  • Focus on future needs
  • Competitive advantage
  • Revenue Impact
  • Impact on other corporate goals, (Sullivan, 2004).


Role and Assessment of SHRM

Sullivan defines strategic human resources as, “a future-focused approach designed to provide a measurable impact on strategic business goals”, (2004). Strategic human resources encourage forward thinking. This way, human resources managers can reflect and plan on the future of the organization instead of the present organization. When developing a strategic plan, it is important to have goals and a vision. Managers will have a place to strive toward. Goals provide focus and encourage company innovation and creativity to reach the objective. Prioritizing the goal helps manifest the vision in to reality. Applying strategic human resources into universities and educational organization, different factors are required for growth and sustainability. This includes attracting students and recruiting lecturers, professionals, professors, and staff. Additional goals to achieve profitability and stimulate student population is to recruit international students, career resources for graduating students, programs that encourage alumni to continue their education within the institution, and development programs for high demand positions like science, engineering, technology, and mathematics.

To encourage growth, future sustainability, and success, human resources must infiltrate the movement of innovation and forward thinking culture into the departments, chairs, and staff of the institution. These ideals of future focus must be pushed from within the organization. Goals must be practiced and promoted by top management, deans, and chair holders, allowing this mindset to saturate down the corporate ladder. This will positively influence the departments, staff, administration, and student body. Therefore, “the critical element in becoming a performance culture is improving the productivity and effectiveness of the people in the organization”, (Sullivan, 2004). Changing the culture and mindset of organizational participants will in turn encourage drive, growth, and sustainability. This can make any university a leader among the rest.

Development and culture rest within the framework of strategic human resources. “HR’s strategic role is defined as increasing work force productivity, the HR department must assume the role of ‘asset manager’ for the most expensive corporate asset—its employees”, (Sullivan, 2004). As asset manager, the human resources department is responsible for employing, training, maintaining, and sustaining employees. With this job criteria, HR has the power and ability to produce and encourage a high performance work environment. This can be done by hiring the right individuals for the right position. The people hired must fit the character of the work culture. Training is also important. It includes all staff into the development process to apply goals and a new company culture that is inviting and innovative, all the while improving job performance.

“Strategic individuals find a way to influence others so that the net result is that people who don’t have to cooperate are nonetheless influenced to work together for a common goal”, (Sullivan, 2004). By developing and utilizing a strategic plan, the company will have an objective in place for future success. Developing a mantra and implementing this throughout the department is necessary to accomplish the goal. For example, if students are not able to obtain their career objective after graduation and HR must improve in this area. To accomplish this HR will train and recruit staff for career building. Training will be provided to administrators, staff, professionals, and advisors on career success. Staff can provide a variety of career options for students, including providing seminars to the student body and making various resources available. By incorporating this need into the staff and administrators, employees will find themselves instigating the program without hesitation. Thus, as this goal moves throughout the body of staff and administration, others will be influenced to reach this goal due to the change in culture found in the industry.

Achieving Organizational Goals thru SHRM

Strategic Human Resources Management, SHRM, has the ability to achieve organizational goals by being innovative and forward thinkers. Implementing organizational strategy into the culture of the industry is placed at the highest priority. Accordingly, current staff, departments, and employees across the board must not think of the present circumstances. They must consider the future. “More attention should be paid to the resources required to execute strategies…human capital of an organization”, (Luna-Arocas & Camps, 2008). The employees of the organization, from upper management to general staff, all play a role in company culture and implementing goals and strategies. “By shaping employee behaviors and attitudes” and encouraging a high performance culture, HR practices can positively affect organizational outcomes, (Luna-Arocas & Camps, 2008).

Specific trends that affect growth are:

  • Technology advancement
  • Outsourcing
  • Changes in demographics and diversity
  • Changing employee values and attributes
  • Globalization

Taking advantage of the trends available can produce movement, growth, and profits. To do this human resources must focus on various factors to implement a new culture and achieve company goals. Most importantly, human resources must establish staff retention. Researchers Luna-Arocas and Camps recognize that, “staff retention has become the leading challenge facing many HR departments”, (2008). HRM often lose sight of staff retention. This is because they become side tract with saving cost. However, researchers have found that the revolving door effect can mean a loss of profits through performance and production. Although human resources can save company money today, in the long run the organization gets the short end of the stick. In the end, the organization pays out more revenue to recruitment, training, and acclimating new staff to induce a high performance quality culture.

Retaining and Recruiting

To obtain goals and implement company culture, training should be provided to all staff and personnel. Management should receive training as well as leaders of the organization, to be an example for others to follow. “HR department [and] senior managers should model the designed behaviors, rethink recruitment, and retention criteria from the vantage point of the consumer”, (Rao & Dewer, 2005). Company objective should always be in the forefront and a reminder to employees. Furthermore, the HR department should work on retaining staff already present. Incentive programs, bonuses, recognition, and appreciation should be available to staff and employees. This will lead to “job satisfaction and/or organizational commitment…positive reactions, increased cognitive skills relevant to the job and/or organization, and increased productivity task and contextual behaviors of employees”, (Wright & Hisae-Nishii, 2007).

In order for organizations to attract and retain candidates of quality they must understand the impact that globalization, talent management, and brand has on the bottom line. Adopting the mindset of globalization and talent management, impacts the goals of the organization. Creating a culture that understands the brand, mission statement, and bottom line within the organization is important. So, to become number one in its category, organizations must project these thoughts into employees. As a result, becoming a leading contender in the industry requires staff to think and act accordingly. With the use of information technology, communication, and accessibly, entering the global market is imperative to sustain growth. To enter the global market there are various avenues organizations take. These include recruiting students from abroad to fuel profits and recruiting professors and professionals on an international level. Encouraging diversity into both student body and professors, the organization can broaden its reach, stimulate academics, and encourage creativity by including people who are different. Consequently, “competing in a tighter labor market cannot be done solely by better recruiting. It must be a combination of recruiting and retention”, (Losey, 2005).

In 2011, social media played a large role in talent management and will continue to dominate in communication and information technology. Employees who are computer savvy and motivated by technological advancement and equipment, can affect the growth of the organization. With the baby boomer generation up for retirement, this allows opportunity for growth, change, and expansion of enterprises. Consequently, HR professionals must be proactive rather than reactive with these trends. Michael Losey stated in his research that, “for too long now we have relied on other nations to supply the majority of our scientist and engineers”, (2005). However, instead the company can develop individuals to supply this high demand. To encourage science and technology, the organization can recruit student body as well as professors in this market through the use of social media. Sites such as and have become a platform for both individuals and industries to market their company as well as themselves. With communication technology playing a large role in human resources management, organizations must be inventive and forward thinking when using this platform. It is a source of recruiting students on an international level as well as an avenue to boast on new programs and developments within the institution. “Firms with greater innovativeness will be more successful in responding to change environments and in developing new capabilities that allow them to achieve better performance”, (Chan & Haun, 2009).

Programs and Talent Development

Employee commitment and loyalty to the organization is imperative for growth and sustainability. The more loyal and committed the employee the better he or she will perform in the work environment. Therefore, “the solutions to these recruiting and hiring challenges focus back on the employers and their HR strategies”, (Cappelli, 2005). To improve employee retention, the employer must bring something to the table aside from standard pay and benefits. Michael Losey’s research found that employees “want a career and responsible job security, an employer who thinks about employee development, new experiences, and equitable consideration for advancement, and to work for an organization or person they respect”, (2005). Ironically, these incentives come at little cost to the organization. To encourage commitment and loyalty, HR’s strategy should develop programs to encourage job promotion, talent, and innovation. Professionals who are seeking to become lecturers or professors may be allowed to enter a development program to receive the training and knowledge needed to enter the field. Those individuals who are looking for a change can enter a program that will allow them training and potential for a different field within the industry. In addition, those who are lacking in their profession will have the opportunity to receive training and skills that will improve their job performance. As iterated earlier, the institution will work on developing individuals for industries that are in high demand. SHRM provides: “talent development with a view toward enhancing skills demanded by the customer, redesign[ing] jobs from the customers point of view, provid[ing] information about the customer, empower employees, and construct metrics and rewards that reinforce customer-relevant behaviors”, (Tsu & Wu, 2005). With these strategies HR departments become the primary factor in improving organizational outcomes by institutionalizing company goals and culture.

Staff will be motivated to improve the culture and productivity. Instilling staff motivation is significant. However, research conducted by Clawson and Newburg found that charts, numbers, and graphs is an ineffective method to motivate others. “Every measurement of success in developed industrial society as a function of goal achievement has become so pervasive that we take goal orientation for granted”, (Clawson & Newburg, 2005). This is because most people give a mediocre work performance. They are likely reserving their energy for their bowling league, chauffeuring soccer games, and weekend activities. Mediocre work performance is due to lack of motivation. To encourage employees and administrators HR should provide social events. Social events are a great environment to promote achievements, show appreciation, and encourage employee satisfaction. Social engagements encourage high performance corporate culture. Being validated by management and other superiors will stimulate employees to show competitiveness and showmanship towards their occupation. Furthermore, it promotes employee commitment and loyalty. Simple encouragements such as daily rewards and social activities such as company picnics can motivate employees and encourage culture. In addition, other programs can be installed into the work environment. By allowing staff an avenue to voice their opinion will help arouse creativity and forward thinking that can help improve the company and stimulate growth. Showing interest in employees including work recognition, mentoring programs, growth, and providing employees with a voice, will implement culture and movement within the industry. “Labor intensification through increased employee participation, decentralization, and emphasis on performance management might create competitive advantage in terms of financial performance, but the individual worker might experience increased levels of stress and anxiety”, (Paauwe & Boselie, 2005).

“Human” in Human Resources

As the era continues to shift towards advanced technology, it is important for SHRM to maintain the “human” in Human Resources. Recruiting employees has become a computerized endeavor. People no longer walk into company locations for applications and job inquires. In previous times, management had the opportunity to meet their perspective employee before reviewing their application. As a result, hiring staff must rely on various resources to judge character and potential in a candidate. From conducting a Google search to calling references there are different hiring techniques used. In this way human resources have lost the human touch of the position. Most applications are wired electronically, websites such as and have become portals for both employers and employees. In addition, intranets and self-service portals provide employees with instant information on their HR profiles. Technology has removed the human interaction out of the equation. However, implementing an effective development strategy, HR can put the human back in Human Resources. Incorporating the “human” aspect of the job will encourage retention and employee loyalty. As stated earlier, employees prefer to work for a place or individual they respect. However, if HRM cannot reciprocate an aspect of care and consideration towards the employee population, a quality work force and a high performance culture will be lost.

Other aspects driven by numbers, matrix, and statistics have also removed the “human” out of human resources. Sullivan admits that, “‘undercounting’ cost is one of the prime reasons that HR fails to increase worker productivity”, (2004). Paying attention to the numbers of the present without considering the implications of the future is ineffective. This can cost a company a large amount in lost profits. These include:

  • Hiring people with few skills to save on cost
  • Firing high paying employees for cheaper employees
  • Underpaying employees in salary and/or benefits
  • Not firing bad workers
  • Laying off last hired
  • Implementing a hiring freeze

This further iterates the importance of employee retention and maintaining a human hand in human resources. Maintaining company assets in human revenue is important for growth and profitability. Without taking care of assets, the company will fail as a result. Taking the time out to thank an employee for a job well done, provide end of the year incentives for performance and productivity, or encouraging healthy competition within the organization are all ways to retain employment without creating additional cost. Consequently, “it is essential that HR shift its focus away from cost cutting and focus instead on increasing output and revenues”, (Sullivan, 2004).


Luna-Arocas and Camps indicate that 10% to 25% of companies include high performance work strategies into their human resources practices, (2008).  “The high performance work place of personnel hiring, performance-management system rewards and incentives, training, and implication of the workforce, all have an important statistical and economic impact on labor retention and productivity”, (Luna-Arcas & Camps, 2009). To achieve improvements in operations, finance, and productivity many companies have implemented strategic human resources management. They have found that implicating high performance strategies into their HR practices produce positive results. To develop and implement a plan into organizations create a competitive advantage over other industries. It also improves on the human capital, which is important to company growth and productivity. As a result, HRM should work hard and strive towards maintaining, sustaining, and improving their human capital. This can be done through recruitment, finding individuals with characteristics that fit company goals versus industry experience, and retain employees to save cost. Improving diversity, keeping up with information technology, and being a forward thinker are key functions to implement a strategic plan and encourage a high performance culture. In addition, a “system that is focused on solving operational problems and implementing the firms competitive strategy is the basis for the acquisition, motivation, and development of the underlying intellectually assets that can be a source of sustained competitive advantage”, (Arthur & Boyles, 2007). Putting the human back in human resources is also important to sustain and encourage growth. A capitalist society where revenue and profits exceeds the value of human capital, employees not only want to trust their employer but also to respect them. As a result, “employee commitment to the organization would be significantly related to their perceptions of the employers commitment to them as they reciprocate their perceptions of the organizations actions in their own attitudes and behaviors”, (Luna-Arcas & Camps, 2009).



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About Russia Robinson

I am an independent freelance writer and free thinker. I strive to use my writing talents to benefit the greater good of society, one word, one sentence, one page at a time. Originally from Richmond, California I attended San Francisco State University receiving a BA in English Creative Writing and American Literature in 2004. After this I attended post graduate studies in 2008 at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University in Technical Writing. With an academic background in English, I have spent more than 10 years’ helping young people succeed. This can be seen in my career background in education and mental health. I am a certifiable Language Arts teacher for the state of Georgia. I also worked in social services including juvenile mental health treatment services and counseling. As a result, I understand the diversity of problems people face in their everyday lives. With words put together like so, I promote equality and a healthy society for all people regardless of individual differences. Conducting research, writing articles, essays, and blogging, I push to educate others about various issues that affect people. I also do this creatively through short stories, poems, pictures, and a novel in progress. My hobbies and interest are reading and learning. I enjoy all things art and all things nature. From camping and astronomy to photography and cooking, I enjoy sighting seeing and socializing just as much as I enjoy curling in bed with a good book or binge watching TV.
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