by Merlin Hernandez

Strategic objectives clearly enunciate what an organization wants to accomplish within a given time-frame, usually the financial year. The strategic plan will lay out the pathways and processes to achievement. Defining the organizational culture as an important element in developing ways to direct the business strategy is often overlooked. The beliefs, attitudes, and values that permeate the organization will ultimately determine the quality of relationships among employees and between employees and outside stakeholders. Good employee morale, exemplary customer service, and supplier support will flow from shared beliefs and values among leaders, managers and employees about the importance of collaborative relationships to business goals.

Workforce size, skills mix, and job functions are key areas of planning, and would include standards for productive efficiencies, performance standards, and benchmarks. Selection for an optimal match of skills to organizational needs may be achieved through any combination of cognitive tests, work samples, situational tests, personality inventories, background checks, or follow up interviews. Performance is evaluated for impact on stated objectives in terms of results, cost-efficiency, value to the strategic direction, and best practices in the industry.

In many instances, however, staffing is a feature of matching skills and experience to job requirements with little emphasis on strategic fit to the corporate vision as articulated by the culture of the organization. But employee recruiting and selection are critical components to strategic management as businesses need to identify and hire the people most qualified to execute their plans. An appropriate selection method is where there is an optimal match of skills to the job but just as important is a personality and character fit. An employee who is a good cultural fit works well within existing organizational values.

The organizational culture refers to the general consensus about goals, and pathways to achieve them within the context of the environment in which the organization exists. It may be seen as an amalgam of differentiated perspectives with the corporate will to establish harmony. But organizations are living, breathing organisms, more especially so in an era of global interactions. Ambiguity is therefore inevitable and pervasive, change is constant, and consistencies are problematic. Underlying this is the understanding that relevance is often subject to interpretation and ambiguity. In order to attain clarity of purpose, the norming factor might be to channel ambiguity outside of the core values of the organization through consensus i.e. to develop a consensual matrix of attitudes and beliefs that serve as a common motivational base for members.

In a culture of diversity, this has strong significance as each perspective tends to be well-defined and finding consensus becomes a real challenge. Moreover, consensus tends to be a feature of shifting paradigms. This might be somewhat mitigated by a structural overlay that imposes some kind of stability. The organizational structure is thus an outgrowth of the organizational culture and is really the hybridization of perspectives harnessed for operational efficiency. The structure is then the engine through which work is coordinated by methods that include lines of authority, span of control, areas of autonomy, specialization, work teams, cross-functional channels etc.

Furthermore, there needs to be the recognition that organizational culture is a fluid concept and that structural change should always remain a strategic option. Globalization has forced many companies to recognize that what goes on in Tokyo, Dubai, Beijing, or London affects currency exchanges, the cost of raw materials and energy, competitiveness, and profit potential. They are thus compelled to do business with one eye on global changes while utilizing different skill sets in order to maintain competitive edge. Holding on to old ways of doing business, or to an organizational culture that is not responsive to these changes would prove detrimental.

Business strategies for goal achievement will then need to emanate from both pragmatic and contextual considerations and all the elements and processes to successful goal attainment must be aligned. Staffing decisions is one of the key elements to strategic alignment.  The people who will execute strategic plans must fall within the person-environment fit to the corporate vision in order to maintain coherence with its structures.

A major issue is that the recruiting function is not seen as strategic and HR is not typically invited to contribute to business strategy. But recruiting the right candidate to meet strategic goals needs a keen understanding of corporate goals and priorities. A people strategy is an integral part of overall strategy. It synthesizes corporate values with core competencies to create a performance culture where financial, operational and people assets converge to achieve corporate goals. A stronger argument for staffing fit would be that staffing should be the bridge that spans culture, structure and strategy.

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Merlin Hernandez is an entrepreneurial development and management consultant who operates mainly in the small and medium enterprise sector. For more information on this topic, please send enquiries to