HR strategies should be evaluated by comparing achievements against goals. This is not possible where strategies are emergent rather than deliberate. In this case they can only be judged by reference to the degree to which the organization is successful in achieving its objectives through people, insofar as this judgement is possible. As Boxall and Purcell (2003: 28) observed, ‘… strategy is best discerned in behaviour’.
Deliberate strategies, as long as they incorporate strategic goals and strategic plans, can be evaluated according to the extent to which, ideally, they:
- ‘indicate something of genuine significance for the future of the firm’ (Boxall and Purcell, 2003: 30);
- satisfy the needs of the business and its employees;
- are founded on detailed analysis and study, not just wishful thinking;
- can be turned into actionable programmes that anticipate implementation requirements and problems;
- are coherent and integrated, being composed of components that fit with and support each other.
In the real world these prescriptions may be difficult to realize, but at least they provide a number of aiming points.
Ultimately, even deliberate strategies incorporating detailed strategic plans can sometimes only be assessed by the extent to which they meet the sort of broad criteria produced by the chief executive of a housing trust interviewed by the author:
A good strategy is one which actually makes people feel valued. It makes them knowledgeable about the organization and makes them feel clear about where they sit as a group, or team, or individual. It must show them how what they do either together or individually fits into that strategy. Importantly, it should indicate how people are going to be rewarded for their contribution and how they might be developed and grow in the organization.