Designing an HR Strategic Plan for Your Business
In my last article, I explained the strategic role HR ought to play in creating real, measurable value for the business. I emphasized the need for HR leaders to do HR for the business, aligning their plans with business strategy to deliver results. I am convinced that, the place of HR at the seat of strategy is timely and relevant; but one that comes with colossal responsibility: to contribute in significant ways to the value creation process. In today’s edition, I focus on steps that lead to the design of an effective, workable HR Strategic Plan. I like how John P. Kotter, a professor emeritus of leadership and change at the Harvard Business School differentiates between strategy and strategic plan. He opines that, “strategy is the how-to; a strategic plan is the how-to achieve the how-to.” A strategy is often broad and encompasses the big picture. A plan is a series of actionable steps that makes strategy execution look simpler and possible.
A strategic HR leader must contribute to and shape strategy by participating in the strategic planning process. Methinks it will be worthwhile to mention a few capabilities an HR leader must possess in order to make meaningful contributions to the strategy discussion. He/she must bring unusual insight about the business and industry to the table; he must possess exceptional communication skills to be able to drive home his arguments successfully; an excellent listener to understand the differing needs and expectations of the business; and an executor, to get things done. In the end, it is an HR leader’s execution efficiency that translates strategy into results.
The Human Resource Certification Institute’s syllabus for its Professional in Human Resources (PHR) Certification Programme outlines four steps in the strategic planning process:
- Strategy Formulation
- Strategy Development
- Strategy Implementation
- Strategy Evaluation
This step focuses on crafting or critiquing a company’s mission, vision and values. A strategic HR leader must probe to know where and how the company will compete. The tragedy is that, many employees often cannot relate their individual work to the company’s mission. This creates disconnect between work and purpose; the resultant effect is disengagement and high attrition rates. HR leaders must ensure first, the company’s mission is simple, self explanatory and inspiring. Even more important, they must share it consistently till everyone in the organisation understands it and can relate their individual work to it. Else, the whole idea of framing it and hanging it on walls is defeated. We will be toying with sustainability if we can’t get the direction right. And a company mission explicitly sets this agenda. And on values, HR leaders must create sync between personal and business values. It will be prudent for HR leaders during the hiring process to ensure that, new recruits exude the values the company holds onto. How? Let’s develop assessment centers that go beyond the CV. Let’s ask questions on instances where candidates were thrown into ethical dilemmas and what decisions they took. In the end, if a company subscribes to integrity as a value, the people we bring in don’t subscribe to the contrary. Ultimately, the HR leader’s guide is that, we must bring in the people that can help us get to the place we aspire to.
HR, as a strategic leader, must also know when to change the company’s mission and vision to respond to changing business conditions and competitive trends. For instance, in the aftermath of a merger or an acquisition, a strategic HR leader must immediately propose a new mission and vision and values based on the energy and inspiration of the former and also on the new direction the merged company wants to pursue to the board for ratification. And then lead an HR team to execute this new, socially relevant mission and inspiring vision.
At this stage, the mission, vision and values would have been clear. HR must conduct a SWOT or PESTEL analysis to inform, where the business stands in relation to other industry players, potential entrants and their share of the market. This determines their competitive strength in the industry and informs which capabilities will help them win. Next, is to develop long term, SMART goals for the business from an HR perspective. I advise companies use the OKR (Objectives-Key Results) model as propounded by John Doerr. An example is: Objective: To implement a Senior Intern Programme for retired persons aged between 60 and 70 by September 2019. Key Result: To manage the generational gap at the workplace and leverage diversity to drive culture change. The final stage in the strategy development process is to identify corporate-level, business unit and functional strategies and connect these three-tier strategies to the big picture agenda. We call it strategic alignment.
To be able to achieve the long term goals stated in the strategy development stage, HR leaders must break goals into short term objectives, achievable within a six month timeline. John Doerr’s OKR model is simple. After defining your Objective and Key Result at the corporate level, the Key Result at the corporate level now becomes the Objective at the business unit level, which produces a Key Result. And then, the Key Result at the business unit level forms the Objective for the functional level, which also produces a Key Result. The idea is that, you keep breaking the goal down till it is implemented at the least level. More significantly, it also communicates the inseparable team effort that is required to deliver on business goals. In order to achieve the long term goal of implementing a Senior Intern Programme by January 2019, the following will be our short term objectives geared towards achieving that:
- The HR Director will present a proposal to the Executive Committee on the strategic importance of rolling out a Senior Interns Programme in May 2017
- The talent sourcing team will paste at least 10,000 ads on notice boards of 100 churches within Accra and Tema between June and September 2017
- They (talent sourcing team) will publish five ads in the dailies between May and September 2017
- They will complete review of CVs between October and December 2017
- They will schedule two interviews for shortlisted applicants between January and June 2018
- They will post congratulatory messages to selected candidates by September 2018 and thank you messages to unsuccessful applicants
- The Employee Engagement Team will hold two orientation sessions for the Senior Interns between October and December 2018.
- The Senior Interns will commence work in January 2019
Like I mentioned earlier, an HR leader’s execution efficiency is what brings life to strategy. There is the need to develop an Action Plan (otherwise called an Implementation Plan or Execution Chart) to specify timelines, people and resources (capital, technology, and so on) that will be required to achieve the short term objectives. The HR leader in his/her plan must include a motivational plan, which should include monetary and non-monetary and cut to fit the differing needs and expectations of people.
In Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning, it is evident that, evaluation is the highest point in learning. We are unable to improve processes, systems and performance if we aren’t evaluating results. The HR Strategic Plan must include a proposed timeline for reviewing performance and must recommend corrective actions after the review. These corrective actions will bring incremental improvement to business processes, products, people, skills and strategy.