Alignment is a state of agreement. With human resources, it’s when our policies and practices are in sync with the needs and expectations of our people. And to put it in HR Campfire terms, it’s when all three “pillars” of our HR Success Cycle––People, Culture and Operations––are supporting each other in pursuit of our organizational mission.
While alignment is a state of being, it’s also an intentional “practice” that supports the growth of our “pillars”. And we need to practice alignment repeatedly until it becomes a habit, an awareness level, and a willingness and openness to course correct when we encounter obstacles.
We begin our planning in the hopes of achieving alignment early on. And if our people, culture, and operations are done right, we’ll be able to show alignment as an end result of our efforts as well.
Following are some of the key ways that you can achieve alignment moving forward…
1. Gain management buy-in
Like it or not, we don’t own the companies where we work nor do we call all the shots. So, it’s especially important that you enlist the early support of senior management and that you keep them informed of all your plans and progress.
First, if you are to successfully rollout a new HR strategy and initiatives, it will be much easier and more widely adopted if all employees know that your plans are supported by senior management. Gaining that support comes down to a few key things:
- Understanding both the organization’s stated goals and the unstated, or “pocket”, goals of key leadership members (This comes from relationships and conversations.)
- Developing a human resources plan that supports those goals
- Creating metrics that will be able to prove that your plans are effective
Once you believe that you’ve accomplished all these things, you’re ready to present your plan to your boss or senior management and ask for their support.
Second, you’ll want to maintain their early support by keeping them up to date on all your efforts to move HR in a new direction. After all, no one likes surprises. Avoiding drama means making sure your boss—either the CEO, CFO, or other senior leaders within your organization—can articulate what your HR team is focusing on at any given time.
Regular weekly meetings with your boss, plus quarterly reviews of goals are vital for showing your progress and maintaining buy-in. But, you have to take the initiative here rather than wait for an invite. And executing with confidence and celebrating success becomes a lot easier when your accomplishments are your boss’s achievements as well.
No surprises, no drama, and total buy in. That’s our HR Campfire strategy, and we believe you’ll be glad you pursued this strategy in the long run as well—even if you don’t agree with your boss 100% of the time. Look for wins, share recognition and praise, and choose your battles wisely.
2. Analyze team feedback and metrics
One of the biggest shortcomings in leadership programs in general—HR or otherwise—lies in failing to ask the people in the trenches what they think will work best. No one knows their roles or your customers better than the employees in the trenches, and soliciting their feedback is a sure-fire way to shortcut problems. Want to know how to:
- recruit more competitively and find qualified candidates in a tight labor market?
- improve your benefits plans to better serve the needs of your team and retain your top performers?
- motivate employees in light of the challenges we face as a society—whether due to pandemics, inflation, or political unrest?
Ask your employees. And whether you do that formally, via climate surveys or in focus groups, or informally via MBWA (Management by Walking Around), look for the patterns and trends that seem to be driving dissatisfaction or frustration.
Analyzing qualitative and quantitative feedback typically creates a pretty clear picture of what’s really going on. And all it takes is a bit of curiosity on your part to ask the right questions to the right people and build a business case (i.e., using metrics and survey results) to support your recommendations. It’s just a common-sense approach to ensure your plans continue to align with your team’s needs.
3. Adjust the plan
The only constant is change. Thus, the ability to deal with change is likely the most sought-after asset in the business world.
So, you made a great plan. You got leadership buy-in. And then everything changed overnight…the pandemic lockdown hit, sales dropped due to new tariffs being announced, or myriad other surprises that always pop up. Well, you can be stubborn, in denial, or whatever else and stick with your plan as if nothing has changed. Or, you can be smart and adjust your plan to meet the new environment.
We recommend being smart. We also recommend being proactive in proposing plan adjustments to your boss. She probably has enough on her plate already, and she expects you to be the HR domain expert. So, if you had big plans to hire but you see that sales just took a big hit, you’ll likely want to propose some alternatives to consider.
Demonstrating an ability to lead through constantly changing conditions will make you and your employees superheroes. If you can become a master of “change management,” the world’s your oyster.
4. Earn ongoing support
And the Alignment circle closes itself via ongoing support and accolades from your boss and your entire team when you execute your plan effectively and achieve the intended results.
This is the critical end result you’re looking for so that your future plans will be that much easier to develop, sell and implement. In short, you’ll have a successful track record that gives you and your ideas the respect they deserve going forward.
To get there, just keep your boss, your key stakeholders and your team in the communication loop at all times. Find a balance between organizational success and individual achievements. Embrace changes in plan and demonstrate that you can pivot with the best of them. Then celebrate and acknowledge achievements and successes openly, sharing kudos with everyone who touched the process along the way. Happy cows make more milk, and once you master the formula to make cows happy, you’ll never be able to unlearn it. And that’s when they call you an inspirational and transformational leader. See how it all comes together now?
The HR Success Cycle is Complete…for Now
Alignment is both a practice and an end result. You’ll want to check for alignment at each phase of your strategic plan rollout. You’ll want to adjust as needed. And you’ll want to measure the end result before you develop future plans to create further alignment for your ever-changing organization.
You’ll know you’re in alignment when you begin to hear all the oohs and aahs about what you’re doing. Your boss will be complimenting you for achieving your goals on time and under budget. And your entire workforce will be engaged with all the improvements you’ve made along the way.
You will have improved all three pillars of HR––People, Culture and Operations––by properly planning, checking for alignment, and adjusting as needed. Thus, the HR Success Cycle achieves perpetual forward motion in support of your organization’s mission.
And you and your team will have made a positive impact on the lives of others that we all dream of making.