Skip to content

The benefits of proactive HR: 3 reasons to stop being reactive


How much of your HR strategy is proactive versus reactive? Being proactive in HR can save your organization time, money and effort by getting ahead of problems before they arise.

When your HR strategy is strongly proactive, you and your colleagues are less likely to devote your time to “putting out fires.” Being less reactive can reduce everyone’s stress level and raise productivity. 

So, how can you implement a more proactive approach to HR, especially if you’re currently stuck in reactive mode? Here are some ways to start making that strategic shift.

Proactive HR starts with conversations 

To develop proactive HR strategies, it’s important to have discussions with fellow members of your leadership team about the company’s mission and vision. In these conversations:

  • Discuss what your company needs to fuel business growth.
  • Examine the gaps between your organization’s current state and your company’s goals.
  • Identify strategies that can help your company close those gaps.

For example, what if your company aims to become the largest restaurant-equipment maintenance and repair service in your state, but right now you only serve two metro areas? You’ll need a plan for recruiting and hiring talent in nearby cities to expand your company’s service area well before your company is ready to start expanding.

These conversations can also help you see if you have the right people in the right seats to help the company achieve its goals. By asking why and using the answers to continuously refine your proactive HR strategy, you can move toward getting the right talent into the right positions to help your organization thrive. 

How to become more proactive

The ideal is to start implementing proactive HR strategies when your organization is new or small. But it’s possible to get out of reactive mode, even in a larger organization, by taking some strategic steps.

Start with discussions at your company’s highest levels about the current state of the business, why things are the way they are and where you want to be as a team. Those conversations can lead to:

  • Additional training for employee development
  • Re-crafting job descriptions for better candidate pipeline development
  • Realigning job descriptions for more optimal career paths
  • Revamping processes for the betterment of the company

It’s helpful to make a habit of asking leaders, managers and employees, “Why do we do that?” The answers can help you identify which processes are in place because they’ve always been done that way, which benefit the company and how to make appropriate adjustments as needed.

3 reasons to implement a proactive vs. reactive HR strategy

Overall, a proactive HR practices allows you to address challenges before they become significant and when it comes down to it, can make all the difference in an organization’s success and long-term sustainability. Proactive HR:

1. Supports better succession planning

For any organization, an important element of proactive HR is being able to quickly fill key roles when a vacancy opens – especially if your organization loses a key contributor or executive-level leader.

This means succession planning and building and maintaining a pool of qualified candidates.

Succession planning helps ensure your company is prepared for the future. That way, when a key employee leaves, you already have someone in mind to fill their position (who, hopefully, has been coached for this eventuality).

The key to a successful succession plan is looking at all your employees and making sure you haven’t missed any important person or position. In other words, have a succession plan for more than just your C-suite.

If and when there’s not a strong candidate for internal promotion, being proactive about developing and maintaining a full candidate pipeline allows you to move quickly. You’re already in a position to reach out to qualified candidates and begin vetting.

The approach can:

  • Reduce time to hire
  • Keep your organization on track to pursue its goals
  • Free HR to focus on other strategies instead of scrambling to fill the open position

Without both elements, you could be stuck in reactive mode when a key player leaves – reviewing and bringing in candidates because they happen to apply for the position.

2. Fosters employee development

Another way to close the gaps between where your organization is and where it wants to be is with a proactive training program. Your conversations with leadership about goals can show you how this kind of program can take shape.

For example, let’s return to our restaurant-equipment service company. Maybe in addition to expanding its service area, the company wants to expand its high-end client base by offering authorized repair services for premium brands.

A training program for employees in each area you serve could help your organization build out those premium offerings in an orderly way. It could also help your organization reach its expansion goals in a tight labor market by allowing you to hire entry-level technicians for attitude, train for skill and promote from within.

If your organization’s goals are to develop new products and services, a proactive strategy could also identify and implement training programs that foster innovation.

A proactive training strategy should gather employees’ input on the types of training needed to reach their career goals with your organization. That can help:

  • Increase employee retention – workers who are satisfied with their career growth are more likely to stay
  • Make succession planning easier by training with career paths and individuals’ career goals in mind
  • Strengthen your workplace culture by supporting career growth and innovation
  • Build a better employer brand

3. Helps identify workforce needs

Intentional, frequent listening is a valuable skill for proactive HR practitioners.

Listen to candidates, internal and external, to find those who are the best fit. Ask the types of questions that help determine whether the candidate is the right fit for the position and if they’re able to help achieve long-term company goals.

Listen to employees to keep tabs on the health of your company’s culture, employee morale and what’s working (and not working) for them. Listen to managers and leaders to get their perspective on the same issues.

You may find there are differences in how employees and managers perceive conditions. Identifying those gaps and taking steps to close them can lead to improvements that show your employees that they’re being heard.

For example, if management believes that employees are satisfied with the company’s flexible work policy; however, sandwich-generation employees (those caring for children and aging relatives) say they’re feeling overwhelmed and need more flexibility. As a result, you may be able to use that feedback to expand or amend remote work options to better suit employee needs. 

Listening to identify perception gaps and close them can be a smart strategy that helps employees feel heard, empowered to speak up – and ultimately make them want to stay.

The ideal is to start implementing proactive HR strategies when your organization is new or small. But it’s possible to get out of reactive mode, even in a larger organization, by taking some strategic steps.

Want more ideas for being proactive in HR? Download our complimentary e-book: 7 most frequent HR mistakes and how to avoid them.