One of the biggest potential challenges is resistance to change from employees. Implementing a new HR strategic plan often requires changes to existing policies, processes, systems and the overall culture. Employees who have been comfortable with the status quo may resist these changes. They might feel reluctant to adapt to new ways of working, reporting structures, technologies or priorities. Overcoming employee resistance requires clear communication about the reasons for change, addressing any concerns people have, providing training and support for changes and leaders serving as change champions. It will take time and effort for employees to fully adapt to changes from the strategic plan.
Securing funding and resources to enact the strategic plan can also pose a challenge. Strategic plans often require investments in new technologies, vendor partners, hiring needs, employee training programs and other initiatives that require a budget. If the strategic plan requests for budget are not approved, it may impact the ability to fully execute the strategies. Competing organizational priorities and limited financial resources can restrict what gets funded from the plan. Buy-in from senior leaders and financial sponsors will be important to secure necessary funding support.
integrating new HR initiatives and strategies with existing operational processes, policies and systems can also be difficult. The HR strategic plan may call for new programs, services, workflows or metrics that need to interface with the day to day operational infrastructure. Ensuring new strategies are well coordinated, integrated and streamlined with current operations requires careful planning and testing. It takes time to develop new processes while also maintaining existing workload demands. Resources may need to shift to support integration requirements which can impact short term productivity and deliverables.
Management and executive buy-in and support for the HR strategic plan is another important aspect that if lacking can lead to challenges. The HR department may drive the creation of the strategic plan but successful implementation requires adoption and support from departmental managers and senior leaders across the organization. If these stakeholders do not see the value, understand their role or commit to supporting the strategies, it can slow down or even stall progress. Sustained and active executive sponsorship helps accelerate organization-wide adoption of the strategic plan.
Lack of needed HR competencies and skills internally can also pose a barrier to execution. The HR strategic plan may require specialized expertise, technologies or disciplines that existing HR staff are unfamiliar with with. Critical skills gaps in areas like change management, organizational design, data analytics, learning and development can limit the department’s ability to self-perform all the work outlined in the plan. Outside consultants, vendors or hiring additional internal talent may be needed which requires time and budget. Relying on external partners also introduces coordination overhead.
Measuring and demonstrating progress, results and return on investment from the HR strategic plan can also be a performance challenge. It takes time for initiatives to fully roll out and for outcomes, metrics and key performance indicators to change. Mid-course corrections may be needed as assumptions are tested. Lack of early, tangible wins and data showing impact on organizational success factors like productivity, innovation and culture change can undermine stakeholder faith in the plan. Communicating milestones and compiling robust measurement systems is important for maintaining support and securing ongoing funding.
Ensuring alignment of HR strategic priorities and key performance metrics with overall organizational goals, business strategies and external market conditions over the long-term is also difficult to sustain. As business needs change, the HR strategic plan may become less aligned compared to when it was first created. Rigidly sticking to original strategies risks falling out of sync with shifting business realities. The plan needs to maintain flexibility to adapt new goals as organizational context changes. This makes ongoing monitoring, governance processes and periodic updating essential to sustain strategic alignment over the years it can take to fully execute the plan.
Lack of buy-in, resistance to change, integration challenges, funding obstacles, skills gaps, measurement difficulties and misaligned priorities over time are some of the potential roadblocks that can hinder an HR strategic plan’s implementation process from being seamless and on track if not properly mitigated through leadership, change management practices, careful planning and ongoing governance. Continuous stakeholder engagement, communication of milestones, adaptive adjustments as needed and visible progress will help overcome these kinds of barriers.