For most businesses, an HR strategy is just as necessary as having an overall business plan.
Your people must steer the business through often choppy waters to achieve its goals. Without a map and some navigational skills, you may drift aimlessly before sinking.
Reacting to changes may help to fix immediate problems in the business but this is a dangerous approach that can get you in trouble in the longer term.
The foundation of a comprehensive HR strategy considers the overall vision of the business and the requirements to achieve it; it considers the needs of the people running the business and finds ways of aligning these needs with the vision; and then it also plans for the unexpected.
Without addressing these three key areas, important elements will be missing from your HR strategy and it is likely that you will flounder.
Take care to avoid the following common mistakes when planning out your strategy…
Not fully understanding where A or B is…
If you had to plot directions for how to get from A to B, you would want to know where A and B were, right?
In order to plan for the future with anything, you need to fully understand where you are now and where you want to go. This means accurately assessing your current position and your future goals.
In terms of HR, this means determining the abilities, skills, knowledge, and experience of current employees in the business; and seeing how these align with where the organisation as a whole wants to go.
It would be no good, for example, if the business wanted to get to the top of Mount Everest with a team of people skilled in canoeing. You’d want a team of experts with knowledge and experience in mountaineering, cold weather climates, extreme conditions, and so on, as well as those who have the drive and the ‘stomach’ to last the distance.
So, you should be fully across the basic credentials of all your employees – skills, educational background, training etc. – as well as having an understanding of their goals, motivations, and other talents.
For Everest, for instance, you may value someone who also has a talent for first aid or physical fitness, or a passion for photography. And you may only discover these ‘hidden’ talents by closer interaction, such as informal one-on-one meetings- they are unlikely to be listed on the resume but will come out in conversation.
Not only will this help you assess what you have now – it will help the employees feel more valued.
With this information, you can see whether you currently have the right people to get from A to B. If so, great; if not, you can plan to bring people in to fill the ‘needs’ gap.
Failure to plan to keep your best team members…
A week before the expedition to Everest and your expedition leader pulls out…or the doctor joins another expedition!
Failure to keep hold of your best employees can easily derail the best-made plans.
Employee turnover is alarmingly high in many organisations. However, despite what many people think, employees rarely leave because of money.
More often, it is because other needs are not being taken care of: a lack of progress along a career path, lack of recognition amongst peers, poor leadership, lack of a challenge, or other non-financial factors that make the grass seem greener on the other side of the fence.
It’s therefore every important to conduct those one-on-ones with employees and understand what truly motivates them to come to work every day. Without this, you are merely guessing – which usually leads to nasty surprises.
Once you know what your employees are looking to achieve in their careers, you can help develop them. What skills do they need? How can you implement training programs that will address their development goals AND give them opportunities to apply their new skills in the workplace?
Skilled HR management will look for ways to align individual goals to the goals of the organisation, enabling mutual growth.
Conversely, HR strategies that ignore the underlying motivations of employees are doomed to fail, handicapped by talent drain.
Failure to prepare for change…
Just as you start the ascent to Everest, the weather changes. You hadn’t planned for a delay like this so you either have to abandon the expedition or push on regardless of the dangers…
You always need to be prepared for change and for worst-case scenarios.
In the case of business, it might be market changes meaning you have to lay off staff or suddenly employ more staff; it could be the CEO or MD leaving, or some other change that can cause disruption to plans.
It helps, for instance, to have succession plans in place and to be agile enough to re-organise departments quickly to respond to change, if necessary.
Succession plans are also beneficial as they help to provide a career path for ambitious individuals in the business (see the point above). The fact that your best employees have been earmarked for a promotion can be a strong motivating factor to stay on in the organisation.
Of course, employees do not like surprise changes either; so part of your HR strategy should cover communication – and how to best inform employees about the inevitable organisational changes that will affect them.
The three mistakes highlighted above can derail any HR strategy. Avoiding them will help you create a strong foundation for the business to build on and will enable you to prepare for the future with confidence.
With a strong base, you can tweak and make the necessary changes as you go along; but without it, everything that follows will be on shaky ground.
Need some help with formulating an HR strategy that future-proofs your business? Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.