Human Resource Career Paths and Strategic Planning

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This paper provides a general overview of the human resources career paths and an analysis of how companies conduct formulate and implementation of their human resources strategic plans. As per the career paths that one can take to enter the human resource workforce, there are two possible options: generalist and specialist types. Regardless of the decision regarding the career path, the manager will participate in planning and implementing a human resource strategy. While different companies might approach the process differently, this paper outlines the critical steps that are common between the majority of the organizations. In the formulation stage, one has to ensure horizontal and vertical fit to suit the strategy’s appeal to employees and the company’s values. The implementation stage involves minimizing the risks associated with communication and the false enactment of the strategy.


For any person aspiring to work in the field of human resource management (HRM), understanding possible career paths is essential. Obedgiu (2017) defined the role of the human resources (HR) manager as “aligning human resource and business strategy, re-engineering organization processes, listening and responding to employees and managing transformation and change” (p. 986). Although a journey towards the desired position is unique for every HR professional, one must decide on one of the two primary categories of HRM: generalist and specialist positions. This essay will focus on outlining the general pathway of an HRM career and analyze the strategic HRM practices that different companies utilize to enhance their practices.

Possible Career Paths


The first category of HR career paths is the generalist positions. As the name implies, an HR manager with a generalist focus does not concentrate on a specific task but “handles all aspects of human resources work, and thus require an extensive range of knowledge” (Obedgiu, 2017, p. 988). Consequently, they are responsible for managing a workforce, talent acquisition, implementing compensation programs, strategic future planning, ensuring policy conforming among employees, etc. (Obedgiu, 2017).

An entry-level position is often called “a human resource or personnel assistant” and requires applicants to facilitate the department’s work (Obedgiu, 2017, p. 988). Other higher job titles applicable to this category are “HR business partner, HR generalist, HR department or branch manager, chief HR officer” (Obedgiu, 2017, p. 988). Overall, these job positions allow workers to apply numerous skills to shape the workforce without focusing on a specific aspect of HRM.


On the other hand, a specialist is a worker who has a narrower field of expertise within the greater context of HR. Unlike generalists, specialists focus on only one type of task and HR function (Obedgiu, 2017). Specialists’ tasks are generally defined as workforce planning that involves hiring and firing processes, HR development that tackles education and training, compensation, benefits plan, and risk management (Obedgiu, 2017). The tasks that different specialists imply in their everyday work constitute a bigger picture of HRM and its strategic planning.

Strategic HRM


While different companies develop their HR strategies differently, there are general guidelines for the process that involves steps of formulation and implementation. As per the formulation, the companies have to consider horizontal and vertical fits to develop a comprehensive plan that complements the organization’s overall strategy. According to Armstrong and Taylor (2020), vertical fit requires HRM specialists to align their approach with the organization’s overall strategic plan and develop it while taking a business’s circumstances and current climate into consideration.

Furthermore, there are three approaches to conducting a vertical fit: competitive strategies, life cycle, and strategic configuration models. As it concerns a competitive strategic model, it enables the HR department to give their company a competitive advantage through employing new talents and maintaining the existing workforce (Armstrong & Taylor, 2020). The life cycle model, in its turn, identifies the start-up, growth, maturity, and decline stages of a business and then aims to meet its needs on a particular level (Armstrong & Taylor, 2020).

For instance, a start-up HRM will focus on acquiring talents and training the current employees, while a growing company will need a significant influx in the number of workers to support further development. Lastly, HR specialists who work via the strategic configuration model shape their strategy following the company’s values and types, which are defined as “prospectors, defenders, and analyzers” (Armstrong & Taylor, 2020, p. 28). By utilizing one of the three common models, different companies create their unique strategies to fit into their organizational context.

Secondly, as it concerns the horizontal fit, which is also called bundling, it involves the integration of multiple employees to fulfill a common goal. By using bundling, businesses ensure that all of their workers accept the goals and have tasks that complement each other (Armstrong & Taylor, 2020).

The synergy that the horizontal fit provides allows managers and their subordinates on all levels of the organization to have interrelated tasks. Together, they work as a cohesive tool for HR change-making. Alignment with all management levels is essential since if any part of the company fails to understand the goals of the strategy and follow them, the implementation will fail too. Once a company made its HRM strategy align with vertical and horizontal fits, they supplement a plan with applicable considerations of the labor market, employment laws, and other stakeholders such as labor unions.


Although different companies employ different tools and approaches for formulating the best HRM strategic plans, their implementation is also a crucial part of the process. Mierlo et al. (2018) highlighted that regardless of how effective the program appears to be on a formulation stage, it can fail on the implementation step for numerous reasons. As a result, HR implementation practices ensure that the strategic change is communicated to the workforce and is accepted by employees as beneficial.

Firstly, communication difficulties, as the significant drivers of resistance to change, are minimized by the implementation procedures. According to Mierlo et al. (2018), some companies conduct this step by establishing training sessions that employees can attend to gain an understanding of why a strategy is being implemented. Furthermore, additional materials that provide the necessary information are readily available. This measure eliminates the ambiguity of the implementation and establishes a mutual understanding of the change on all management levels.

In addition to minimizing the resistance to change, HR managers carefully observe the reaction to the implementation and seek feedback to identify the success of the process. Many strategic plans are not successfully enacted due to a gap between the intended and the implemented practices (Mierlo et al., 2018). For instance, an employee does not understand a new policy and adopts it in a way that harms the company but saves time for him/her. This is eliminated by companies’ HR managers through careful observation which ensures that employees adopt a strategic change that they perceive to be beneficial for them and the company simultaneously.


In conclusion, the HR manager’s role is a complex one that involves a lot of decision-making and planning. Firstly, for a person to start a career in HR, one has to decide between generalist and specialist paths that require a different set of skills. Secondly, an aspiring HR manager must gain a comprehensive understanding of strategic HRM, which involves plan formulation and implementation. Knowledge of the areas mentioned above will give a candidate an understanding of what the work position entails and prepare him/her for a chosen career path.


Armstrong, M., & Taylor, S. (2020). Armstrong’s handbook of human resource management practice. Kogan Page.

Mierlo, J., Bondarouk, T., & Sanders, K. (2018). The dynamic nature of HRM implementation: A structuration perspective. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 29(22), 3026-3045. Web.

Obedgiu, V. (2017). Human resource management, historical perspectives, evolution, and professional development. Journal of Management Development, 36(8), 986-990. Web.

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