Planning is key to everything we do in life that’s important. We plan to get married, plan to go to college, plan to save for retirement, and so much more. The workplace deserves no less.
Planning to meet your organization’s people challenges is where it all starts. Planning to drive higher levels of employee engagement and productivity is where it keeps going. Doing so smartly with the help of research and metrics will get you the best possible result.
There are various methodologies for creating and tracking strategic plans, but most have some common characteristics. Here they are:
1. Assess your organization’s needs
Assessing your organization’s needs comes simply from being in tune with your employees’ needs and wants. How you get there is up to you:
- Does MBWA (Management by Walking Around) get you the firsthand knowledge of what’s needed to keep everyone performing at their best?
- Would a climate survey make sense right about now to formally query your employees to ensure they’re happy, satisfied, and engaged in their work? (Just remember that if you’re going to ask the questions, you must be prepared to act on their feedback and recommendations.)
- What about exit interviews: is it important to find out why people are leaving the organization voluntarily—especially your best performers?
You may also want to take a more macro view of your organization with the classic SWOT analysis. This could uncover some of the threats/challenges you’re facing and help you turn them into opportunities. For example, do you have a:
- Scarcity of job applicants for your open positions, excessive turnover, or lackluster job performance?
- Big box employer that just opened down the street that’s paying $2 more per hour for entry level talent?
- Full-time hiring model in a big university town where students just want to augment their income while keeping their studies first?
These are the sort of issues to uncover and brainstorm with your team in order to focus your strategic plan on your most pressing needs.
Assessing workplace needs is as much of an art as it is a science. What’s important is that you ask: Reaching out for feedback is where it all starts, and wise employers know that asking and listening is the best approach to getting ahead of problems and solving challenges before they blow up.
2. Research best practices
“But we’re different.” Perhaps. But it’s highly likely that whatever organizational challenges you’re facing have already been solved by someone else.
So, your first steps in trying to come up with solutions should always be to research the issue online, reach out to industry colleagues, look to local industry practices, and use your existing sources to determine what’s working best out there.
Also, in many cases with HR, there is a vendor who has tackled your issue before. And if they haven’t already solved your precise challenge, you may be able to enlist them in your research efforts in hopes of winning your business. And, of course, HR Campfire is always here to help as well.
Through research you won’t always find a solution that’s an exact fit for you. You may have to piece together a few ideas you find, or you might have to develop part of the solution yourself. But at least you’re not starting completely from scratch.
For example, when the pandemic began and our company started working remotely, we wanted to increase employee engagement and connection. We dreamed up various hard-to-implement (and maintain) ideas that we, fortunately, didn’t pursue. And that’s because our research uncovered an easy solution with the Bonusly plugin for Slack. It’s a fairly cheap plug-n-play tool which encourages shout-outs and rewards that bring our team closer together.
It’s this constant combination of curiosity, asking your employees, and researching best practices that will bring you to the ideal solution more quickly than just about anything else. And it’s in bringing you this type of information that HR Campfire excels and makes a significant difference.
3. Develop a plan with goals and metrics
“Jessica, what’s your plan to deal with these challenges we’re facing?” If you create a quality plan, no one will ever need to ask you that question, catch you off guard, and create an awkward moment that makes you feel like you’re not on top of your game.
There are numerous approaches to strategic plan creation. We like to use a variation of the One-Page Strategic Plan developed by Verne Harnish. It’s really two pages, but it’s still easy to communicate and remember.
While it includes numerous important macro points you’ll want your team to remember, the focal point is simply the 3-5 major goals you wish to achieve in the coming year. And developing those goals entails answering the most basic of questions: who, what, where, when, why, and how?
At the beginning of each quarter, you’ll then want to break those annual goals down further for your team. This quarterly approach as well as a daily, weekly and monthly rhythm of meetings was popularized by Gino Wickman’s book, Traction, which we also incorporate into our methodology.
Lastly, when creating goals, they should always be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Once your plan and goals are established, you’ll want to get buy-in from your management team. That’s part of the Alignment practice of the HR Success Cycle that we’ll cover in our next article.
Now it’s time to work towards our goals and see how we’re doing…
4. Track your progress
Progress towards most goals should be tracked at weekly team meetings and measured at the end of each quarter. But you may have some metrics that you choose to track either more or less frequently than weekly. Do whatever makes sense for your organization.
Tracking progress generally involves establishing a baseline data point against which you will measure all future data against. And because your goals are all SMART, they are indeed measurable and time-bound. For example, suppose we want to set a goal of reducing employee turnover by 10%. We need to first establish our baseline turnover percentage for the past, say, year. Then, we need to calculate that metric every period (e.g., quarterly) to see how it’s trending and whether or not we met our goal.
If you’re hitting your goals, great! If not, that can be okay sometimes. For example, you may determine that you bit off more than you can chew, but you’re still making good progress. (Of course, that means that your SMART goal wasn’t realistically Achievable.) The point being…a plan doesn’t always have to be set in stone. You and your boss may decide to adjust it midyear if circumstances change.
Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail
The process of improving your HR function starts and ends with planning. At the very beginning, you do your research. And at the very end, you measure your success before beginning your next cycle of planning.
If you skip the planning step, your team will just keep treading water…not making a difference to the people you serve. Instead, we want to help you unleash your team to reach new heights in their own career development and eventually pay it forward, culminating in selfless leadership.
We know it’s not easy. This is what work was meant to be: challenging, fulfilling, and rewarding. It’s exciting to see what your future holds and all the wonderful work you’ll do and the impact you’ll have as you move organizations forward and build people’s careers.
Now let’s talk about the critical practice of Alignment as you implement the HR Success Cycle…