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Aligning human resources and business strategy – review


Title: Aligning Human Resources and Business Strategy
Author: Linda Holbeche
Publisher: Butterworth Heinemann, 2001 (paperback)
Price: £19.99
ISBN: 0 7506 53620

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Now available in paperback, this is another persuasive contribution to the ever-growing body of literature making a strong case for businesses to adopt a more strategic approach to HR. The author, Linda Holbeche, draws from her work as Director of Research at the Roffey Park Management Institute and contributor to Personnel Today magazine to produce a cohesive study that charts the potential development of HR from an internal service to a core constituent of business strategy.

Holbeche develops the argument in favour of aligning HR and business strategy through four cohesive sections - the need for strategic HRM, strategies for managing and developing talent, HR as a strategic function and implementing strategic change.

Although the potential of strategic HRM may seem like a well-worn argument, the case is presented in a compelling fashion, amply supported by concise case study examples (one of the book’s key strengths) drawn from national and international organisations.

Often neglected areas such as working across organisational boundaries are addressed in a clear and cogent manner. Such practical advice can often be lost in weightier works that scan over the 'big picture' whilst paying scant regard to the contributory detail.

That alignment requires a partnership approach, where the importance of line managers is crucial, is a central theme of the book. Holbeche suggests that if HR is best placed to take on the role as "key interpreter, problem solver and resource gatherer" for people strategies, then the responsibility for design and implementation of such strategies should be shared between line management and HR.

Given the 'global' nature of many of the organisations featured in the case-studies (including Ericsson, KPMG and the NatWest group) there is plenty of discussion on topics such as high flyers, international managers and succession planning. It may not seem immediately relevant to those readers who do not operate within an international sphere, but it would be a shame to dismiss it – Holbeche draws out valuable lessons from this analysis which have wider implications for all organisations.

The conclusion and checklists at the end of each chapter are very useful; the book literally asks more questions than it answers but that’s no bad thing. See it as a catalyst rather than a prescribed solution.

A thought-provoking read that deserves a wide audience.

Simon H Johnson
Liaison Manager
Babington Business College



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