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HR strategy: Create a proactive people-plan that speaks to your leaders’ real goals

Sep 02, 2019

What’s keeping your CEO up at night?

Chances are pretty good it’s talent. According to a poll from The Conference Board, CEOs ranked talent issues as two of their top three internal concerns. 

These fears are understandable. But Human Resources (HR) can help shore up leader confidence by showing them a proactive plan to manage these challenges — and even turn them into opportunities. 

With today’s talent market, there has never been a more critical time for HR to be in direct partnership with leadership, linking organizational strategy to a people-centered roadmap for executing that strategy. 

Here are five steps to building an HR strategic plan than aligns with your organization’s goals, and actually helps your leaders rest easy.

1. How are you linking to the big picture? Align with the organization’s strategic plan.

Is there a single strategic decision your organization could make that would not ultimately need to be led and implemented by your people? Look at where your organization is going and how that will affect your HR mandate. 

Your challenge: Figure out how your organization will have the right level of talent resources to deliver on its ambitions. Understand your organization’s current capacity and capabilities. Know where you have potential for growth and development and where you need to develop new pipelines.

To get there, build a HR strategic planning team. Include at least five (no more than 12) people if you can. Aim for contributors with these attributes: smart innovator, connector, devil’s advocate, change agent, and a wise sage. Different ways of thinking will make your team more well-rounded, and diversity in both thought processes and roles will make you more effective.

Together, craft a vision and mission for the HR role in your organization. Here’s a real-world example: 

Vision: We envision an organization led by people of integrity, compassion and deep skills that contribute daily to our overall success.

This vision becomes your measuring stick for all future planning and decisions. You can ask yourself: How does making this choice, committing these resources, spending this money or investing in this technology get us further down the road in accomplishing our vision? 

2. What do you want to accomplish? Set your strategic priorities.

The traditional SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, threats, opportunities) is a valuable exercise for strategic planning. You may be used to thinking of a SWOT analysis in terms of an organization-wide view, but it can be just as useful at the department level for new initiatives and internal projects. 

Consider your SWOT in terms of the organization’s mission and strategic goals. Where are your resources already well positioned to help the organization? Where are you struggling? 

Add “barriers” into your analysis, too. (Unfortunately SWOTB doesn’t have a nice ring to it.) Think of barriers as anything that can cause some heartburn, become a speed bump or build a brick wall to accomplishing your work — you’ll want to plan on how to attack these as well.

To determine opportunities, tie back to the organization’s goals. What needs to happen to get the organization where it needs to go? 

Based on your organization’s strategic plan and your SWOT analysis, you can develop strategic priorities. Here are some HR strategy examples:

Priority: A bench of talent ready for the future.

Priority: A competitive benefits package that benchmarks against our competitors.

To stay effective, narrow your HR strategy plan down to no more than four or five priorities. Most should be customer-facing, while the rest may be operational. 

3. So, what are you going to do? Form achievable goals. 

The next step is to move from broad, long-term priorities to specific, measurable and achievable goals. This is where you identify the most important, “best” strategies to accomplish your strategic priorities.

“We need a strong bench of talent” is a priority, not a measurable goal. If you want to be able to prove that what you’re doing is really working, you need targeted goals that operationalize your priorities. For example:  

Priority: A bench of talent ready for the future.
Goal: At least two (2) candidates for succession into all key, strategic positions by 2020.

Priority: A competitive benefits package that benchmarks against our competitors.
Goal: Research, draft and implement an updated Paid Family Leave policy.

4. No really, what are you going to do? Develop the HR action plan.

The key to implementation is an action plan for each goal. This action plan should include what specifically needs to be done, by whom, by when, and in what order.

Here’s a sample HR strategic plan template for outlining your action plan: 

HR strategy: Create a proactive people-plan that speaks to your leaders’ real goals

5. How are you going to make it happen? Make your action plan a reality.

In order to make your action plan a reality, you need buy-in, ongoing communication and a regular review plan. Review stages are essential to success.

Once you’ve developed your priorities and goals, return to your key stakeholders and get agreement that your plan aligns with organizational goals. Ideally, these are the same folks who will be your vocal, active advocates when it comes to implementation in the months ahead. 

Next, build your rollout and communication strategy. Think about who you need to keep plugged in to the process and how often you’ll communicate. 

Note the action plan above includes multiple review stages for each action step. Hold monthly checkpoints with your HR leads. You want to keep your strategic plan on everyone’s radar and priority list. 

How Wipfli can help

Build your HR strategy with support from Wipfli.

Wipfli’s human resource strategy review asks the essential questions, helping you gain full visibility into your organization’s human resources practices to determine how well these functions contribute to organizational goals. 

We can provide a professional facilitator for organization-wide or targeted HR strategy sessions. Or, for HR leaders looking to build and exercise their skills, we can provide one-on-one coaching to help you guide your team through the process. 

Get to know more about our HR strategy solutions. No matter what your talent needs, contact us for more information on how to get where you want to go. 

You can also read more on strategy here:

How to turn the strategic planning process into a way of being

Board governance – highly effective boards and the strategic mindset


Julia A. Johnson
Director, Organizational Performance
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Deron J. Kling
Senior Manager
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