Why Plan and Strategize? Does It Kill the Dream? (Part One)
9/01/2020 - Petaurum Local
Here, Mark Dyer from Petaurum Solutions discusses how the process of strategic planning helps organisations focus on business growth by planning for future recruitment and retention in order to meet the goals of the business.
A dream is the single picture of a steady state at some point in the future. It might be sitting on a beach watching the sunset and sipping cocktails whilst your immensely successful business carries on with your fantastic team. It might be having that big London HQ on the top floor with a view of the river. Or it might just be a picture of you as your own boss with no-one up there raining down their storm on your chances of progress.
Turning the dream into reality needs a pathway. Not always an instantly definable and detailed one, sometimes just the knowledge that it is there is enough to keep trying to define it. But knowing that it’s there, even on the days you can’t see it, is the motivator. Finding and defining it is the plan. If it’s done well and clearly, the dream will never die.
According to Small Business: “Planning is essential to the success of any business. When a company has a plan to follow, leaders are better equipped to prepare for the future. A business plan creates a focus for the company, uniting employees toward common goals. When everyone works together, it’s easier to manage time and resources, to position the company for growth.”
Planning allows the business to set goals, manage time efficiently, allocate resources, prepare for uncertainty and grow existing business.
The strategy digs down into the detail of the plan.
What Does a Successful Business Plan and Strategy Involve?
Every business has three bases of resource:
Whatever the product or service that the business aims to provide, every business owner knows that nothing can happen without having enough funds to get it going and having the equipment and technology to keep it going. For some time, it might be a one-man band, perhaps with the help of voluntary and willing family members who pitch in to keep the business’ head above water.
But eventually the ‘people’ element will outstrip the capacity of the volunteers and the time that the entrepreneur has available to do everything themself. That’s when the time has come to start employing staff and as HR professionals, we believe that this is an equally important resource with the equipment/technology and the finance. Whilst these are critically important, they need people to organise and manage them.
The Business Plan should include:
- Its vision and mission, described by the high-level objectives and goals of the business
- Consideration of its ethics and values as incorporated in its culture
- A knowledge of how many people may be needed in what area of expertise, to allow the business to grow successfully.
The successful strategy defines, in dynamic terms, the individual plans for each of these areas and understands that they must be symbiotic in order to succeed.
How far ahead should a strategic plan look? One year? Three years? Five years? Probably all three. The one year may be based on survival, the three-year plan on expansion and the five-year plan, probably just the high level BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals) for future growth.
The purpose of HR planning is to look into that future with the business to decide what skills, knowledge and experience will be needed to meet the business goals and accordingly plan the recruiting, retention and training needs of the potential staff.
And HR can help the business define the systems it will use. This ensures that, once it has the right people, they are encouraged to stay with the business because the business cares about them and is the right place for them to succeed and grow as individuals.
The Chicken and the Egg
Which plan should come first? Above we described the relationship as symbiotic and this means that it doesn’t matter which comes first, probably neither. If the plan is the blue-print for running the business and it can’t run without people, then ensuring that each arm is developed inter-dependently will ensure that the ‘people’ element is an integral element and both supports and represents the business’ goals and ambitions.
Where Does the HR Strategy Start?
We have developed this diagrammatic description of the elements of an HR strategy and how they form the virtuous circle of business support.
This strategy is for an established business, but the parts that go to make it up can be added in as the business becomes ready for further sophistication. But what is clear is that the starting elements are the business planning, with reference to values and behaviours that help to clarify the workforce planning.
The diagram also describes the application to a workforce. But where does that workforce come from?
HR people strategy can be summed up in six words: “Get ‘em, Keep ‘em, Use ‘em”. Each section of this strategy is, of course, multi-layered, as can be seen in the above diagram.
Get the right people for the business. Ensure that they have sufficient skills. We believe in getting people whose values and behaviours will fit seamlessly into the culture. This isn’t as simple as it may sound. The culture of a business is like a personality. The characteristics were already in place when the business was set up. They may develop as the business grows but the base culture is very hard to change. In order to get the right people, a business needs to be able to define its culture as simply as possible. And once it knows itself, the HR strategy can work with it in getting the people who are the best fit.
Here’s a cautionary tale of what can happen when this isn’t taken into account.
A small business we have worked with in the past twelve months – a dozen employees, financial services – took on a young person, whom we’ll call ‘Tom’. He seemed to be a perfect fit. He was bright, enthusiastic, had experience confirmed by an excellent reference. How he got that reference was never questioned. His keenness to get on in his career was welcomed and the business owner, a decent, open-hearted, trusting chap, agreed to pay for Tom’s qualification, with the usual caveat that he would remain with the business for a period of time in return for the investment. But as soon as he got his qualification Tom handed in his notice, claimed that the documentation to confirm the pay-back agreement had never been signed and walked out of the door, claiming he was being bullied; with a list of the company’s client details in his hand.
You may wonder how this could have been avoided, short of strapping Tom to a lie detector machine. If Tom was able to talk a such good talk at the interview, how could anyone know what were his real character and intentions? The answer is less complicated than you might think.
First of all, think about ‘haloes’ and ‘horns’. This is about unconsciously ‘liking’ people who are like you and disliking people who aren’t. Being able to detach oneself and be objective is the first step. The next, and most important thing is about competency-based interviewing. This is based on the principle that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. So instead of asking questions where anyone can just make up the answers (strengths and weakness, etc), the interview focuses on situations that have occurred in the past, how they were viewed and how they were dealt with.
Part two of this article will be published w/c 20th January 2020
For further information visit the Petaurum Solutions website
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