People Plans – The Key Variable to Strategic Planning

Austin Baker Research and Trends Friday, March 01, 2019


According to a survey by 6 Disciplines, 95% of employees do not understand their organization's strategy while 44% rank aligning the implementation of strategy to people & company culture as the toughest challenge. Strategic plans highlight strengths, weaknesses, threats, and update us on our goals, however, the implementation of those plans will never suffice unless there is a solid People plan in place to build out those initiatives.

Without clarity around the strategy of the organization, creating a “plan for people” and defining the role of talent management is not only difficult, it’s impossible.

Long gone are the days when the Human Resources department focused solely on recruiting employees. HR has become an invaluable resource itself, working hand in hand with top-level management to create a cohesive, organization-wide strategy.

The strategic importance of HR cannot be underestimated. It’s role as the liaison between employees and the organization is a vital one, especially given the highly competitive nature of the workplace today.

Your people plan must serve the overall strategy of the organization. If it isn’t absolutely clear about what the strategy MEANS in terms of people, skills and competencies required, confusion and dysfunction will spread to talent management and every other function in the organization.

There is no such thing as “good” alignment or “close” alignment. It either exists or it doesn’t and therefore the due diligence that must be applied to the process must be extremely disciplined and precise. Close enough isn’t good enough.

We listed a few tips to make sure you have the alignments necessary to achieve your strategic goals in 2019.

People Objectives Need to Be Clearly Defined

First, the strategic game plan of the organization must contain a specific people plan with “people objectives” that define what talent is required to effectively execute the strategic plan. For this, goal planning sessions are critical for the people to begin developing necessary key performance indicators (KPI’s) to align and measure performance ROI towards that goal.

The people plan must be developed with sufficient granularity to answer these questions:

• What new competencies are required to achieve the new strategic goals defined in the game plan?
• What does the training and recruitment plan look like to acquire these new competencies? (The timing of these actions must precisely parallel the strategy’s need for the new skills critical to deliver results within a specific timeframe.)
• What existing competencies are no longer required?
• What training is needed to equip these people with the new skills required?
• What is the exit plan to move people out of the organization who are either incapable or unwilling to acquire the new expertise?
• How do the elements of the people plan line up with strategic objectives? To get alignment, you have to demonstrate precisely how the outcome of each people plan element serves a corresponding component of the business strategy. For example, which critical objectives of the business are satisfied by which of the new skills targeted to acquire? You need to be able to “see” the link directly, otherwise you can’t claim there is alignment.

Strategic Goals Need to Be Communicated and Translated Across All Levels of Management
According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, 42% of managers and 27% of employees get access to the strategic plan. As these trickle down, it results in 95% of employees not understanding their organization's strategy. With the communication gap effacing the alignment between the upper, middle, and base levels of organizations, objectives, perceived vision, goals, and initiatives will become unclear - thus resulting in a deviation from the original plan designed.

A recent Harris Poll survey of CEOs and HR executives revealed that CEOs think their HR executives are spending their time on training and development, diversity and inclusion, and running employee programs. While in reality, HR executives report that they are spending their time on compensation and benefits, employee relations, recruiting, and onboarding.
CEOs in the survey said that they would like HR leaders to spend more time on talent management, employee rewards and compensation and less time on employee brand, internal communication, and HRIS.
In your quest to be more strategic, be sure you are clear about what is most important to your senior leadership. Then you can ensure that your priorities are aligned and resources are being used to the best advantage.
Engagement and People Development Should Be Integral Parts of Any Strategic Plan
Research continues to support a strong relationship between employee engagement and the effectiveness of a strategic plan. When we inform people by clearly communicating the company’s destination, they develop a sense of direction and focus.

When we inspire people by explaining why the destination is important, they develop the motivation and determination to see the race through.

When we engage them in reaching that destination, they become more willing to make decisions, take appropriate risks and act in the best interests of the organization.

Some steps to make sure you engage your employees throughout the implementation of a strategic plan include:

• Clearly defining what “winning” looks like.
• Measure what matters AND show the importance of their roles in achieving those goals.
• Provide clarity on what they are expected to produce/accomplish
• Give plenty of feedback and recognition & build an atmosphere of trust.

Looking ahead
If the most important factor affecting the viability of an organization is the people who are the very embodiment of the organization, meaningful strategic HR planning must become an organization wide priority to address the myriad issues associated with any workforce. As HR professionals are uniquely aware, the topics and issues identified in this article are only the tip of the iceberg.

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