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How to put a top-notch people strategy in place (+ examples)

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9 min read
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We have seen a number of changes in the way businesses are run over the past few years. This includes a shift towards remote working models and an increasing focus on diversity and inclusion. We have also seen how organizations are relying more on a human-centric model to promote employee wellbeing and boost performance. The right people strategy can help you adapt to the changing business landscape, achieve your goals, and grow as an organization.

With that in mind, today we are going to look at how to develop a people strategy that helps you transition into the future of work. We will also look at the difference between a people strategy and an HR strategy and share a couple of people strategy examples to help you implement your own plan that sets your business up for success.people-manager-kit

 

What is people strategy: A definition

Let’s start with a people strategy definition.

A people strategy is an organizational approach that aims to attract, develop, retain, and generally inspire your workforce. The strategy is usually managed by the HR or people operations department, or in the case of smaller organizations, a small business manager.

Put simply, the approach consists of a set of practices that help you develop your staff so that you can reach your goals. In other words, it’s a business strategy game plan for helping your organization accomplish its mission and objectives.

According to Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the three pillars for developing a people strategy are leadership and culture, talent and skills, and HR support. The aim is to establish a set of practices that focus on these pillars. It’s all about engaging and motivating your workforce, promoting organizational commitment, offering opportunities for learning and development, and providing an inclusive and supportive working environment so that your employees can perform to the best of their abilities, in line with your values and overall HR strategy. This helps your company become more innovative, agile, and able to adapt to an ever-changing environment. It also gives you a competitive edge and enables you to unlock the full potential of your most important asset: your employees.

People strategy and HR strategy: What’s the difference?

You’d be forgiven for thinking that an HR strategy and an HR people strategy are one and the same. Both concepts are about developing your human resources – your employees – so that they can help your organization reach its objectives. However, there is a subtle distinction between the two strategies that you should understand.

An HR strategy is focused on building systems for attracting and retaining talent. It’s about laying the foundation so that your employees can perform their duties. You do this by establishing practices for recruiting, onboarding, evaluating, compensating and developing your workforce in line with established company policies and procedures.

A people strategy, in turn, is about building relationships between organizations and employees. It’s about unlocking the potential of your workforce and empowering your employees so that they can exceed performance expectations. This helps you nurture an engaged and inclusive culture that enables you to grow and succeed as a business.

Think of your HR strategy as your plan for managing your employee logistics, and your people strategy as your philosophy for pushing them to go the extra mile and continuously develop as a workforce.

How to create a people strategy

Now that we’ve looked at the people strategy definition and discussed how it differs from your general HR strategy, let’s take a look at some of the practices you can include in your own people strategy.

You can find out more about the tools and resources you need and how to digitalize your people strategy processes in our handy free people manager kit. This kit contains all the resources you need to build a happy and productive workforce.

You should also consider investing in people management software to help you effectively manage your people and employer branding strategy. You can use a people management platform to streamline all your systems and processes and centralize your employee handbook and procedures.

(Speaking of handbooks, check out this employee handbook template if you haven’t designed yours yet!)

Create a strong sense of leadership

One of the most important elements of an effective people strategy is having a strong sense of leadership to guide your employees on the road to success. Without a clear leader at the helm, your team will not have the tools to work cohesively.

A strong leader with a clear sense of purpose and direction will motivate and inspire your employees so that they believe in themselves and strive to meet, and even exceed expectations. A strong leader is also a valuable resource in terms of support, communication and active listening which will help you develop trust and loyalty within your organization.

Focus on learning & development

Another important pillar for developing a people strategy is implementing a detailed learning and development strategy. This means designing an L&D plan for each and every employee and offering them the right opportunities so that they can further their professional development and continuously improve their skills.

This should be a cornerstone of your people strategy because when employees have the right knowledge and skills they are better equipped to perform their duties and they feel empowered and confident. This helps them become more productive and higher performing members of staff.

Make sure your L&D program goes beyond mandatory training and certifications. You should aim to offer employees a variety of learning opportunities. For example, you could provide them with opportunities for online and offline learning, peer mentoring, and microlearning, amongst other L&D initiatives.

Promote diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging

Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) is a strategic approach that organizations adopt to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce. It aims to create a working environment that benefits all employees, regardless of gender, ethnic background, socioeconomic background, and mental and physical ability, among others.

By committing to DEIB and implementing initiatives to support your vision of diversity and inclusion you are communicating that you value and respect each and every member of your workforce. This helps your employees feel acknowledged and accepted, which will empower them to perform to the best of their abilities.

When you implement your DEIB initiatives, don’t just talk the talk. Make sure that your business is also prepared to walk the walk. Prepare key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics for measuring diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in your workplace. These will help keep leaders accountable and help drive progress.

Drive employee engagement

Employee engagement should also be a key component of your people strategy. By driving and promoting initiatives that encourage your workforce to engage and connect with the company, you will help to reinforce the belief that you value them and see them as being a key lever in the success of your business – that they are more than just a job title. This will help them take more pride in their work, align with your vision and values, and strive to continuously improve their performance levels, boosting your bottom line.

The best way to drive engagement and encourage your employees to connect with the vision, values and goals of the company is to practice the following three principles:

  • Transparency: Be clear and transparent with your employees at all times. Keep them updated about any upcoming changes or challenges that the business is facing. This will help them understand your goals and what they should be aiming for.
  • Recognition: Acknowledge and reward high performers and support those who are lagging behind. This will help your employees feel appreciated and encourage them to push harder to exceed expectations.
  • Accountability: Encourage your employees to take responsibility and be accountable for their own performance levels. Be clear about your expectations and offer the support and resources that your employees need to improve and succeed.

Collect regular employee feedback

Another great tool for your people strategy is collecting regular feedback from your employees. This will help you understand the employee experience so that you can see what areas you need to work on in order to offer the best possible working environment to your employees. Collecting regular feedback will also help your employees feel valued and appreciated and that their performance levels matter.

You can use online surveys to collect anonymous feedback if you prefer or hold regular meetings and appraisals to gather feedback about each stage of the employee lifecycle. Try to keep these meetings separate from your regular performance reviews though so that the focus remains on the employee experience, not productivity levels.

Support employee wellness

Finally, make sure you implement measures to support the health and wellbeing of your employees.

Wellness programs are about caring for the physical, mental, and emotional wellness of employees. Employee wellness programs can include breaking bad habits like smoking or eating poorly. They also could be initiatives to promote stress reduction, emotional support, and therapy.

Both physical and mental health contribute to employee performance. You should therefore ensure you cover all aspects of employee wellness in your people strategy. After all, the more committed you are to the health and wellbeing of your employees, the more loyal they will be. And the more loyal they are, the more they will invest in the success of your business.

People strategy examples

Here are a few people strategy examples that well-known companies have implemented in order to get the most from their workforce.

Spotify’s people strategy

Spotify is a big advocate of the people-first approach. In fact, the audio subscription giant has found the perfect balance between prioritizing the needs of the business and those of the people who work there. This is because they understand that each aspect plays an important role in the success of the other.

Spotify has used this philosophy to create its own unique people strategy founded on the company’s values, mission, and corporate manifesto. This has enabled Spotify to build a culture-first, values and purpose-driven company that drives employee and organizational growth and development.

The four pillars of Spotify’s people strategy are:

  • Talent attraction
  • Diversity, inclusion and belonging
  • Learning and development
  • Growth

Dell’s people strategy

Dell is another great example of an organization that understands the value of implementing a well-designed people strategy. The American technology company does this by focusing on employee learning and development. It chose this pillar because it understands that the success of the organization depends on the skills and talent of its workforce.

Dell offers its employees the opportunity to learn new skills that align with both the overall business goals and their own personal goals. According to Jenn Saavedra, Dell’s Chief Human Resources Officer: “We want to enable people to achieve their career goals, to be successful, and continue to grow and learn and perform. Our people philosophy is ultimately about how to inspire people to be their best and do their best work”.

Dell’s people strategy philosophy is based on four core focus areas, known as A B C and D:

  • Achievement
  • Balance
  • Culture
  • Diversity

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Benefits of a well-developed people strategy

Let’s finish today’s post by reviewing some of the benefits of implementing a well-developed people strategy in your business.

Employee empowerment

The first benefit that you’ll see when you implement your people strategy is that your employees will be more empowered. This will help them align with your vision and goals. And the more aligned they are, the faster they will grow and develop into productive employees.

Ultimately, the most notable benefits of developing employee empowerment are increased trust in leadership and improved motivation levels. And this results in increased performance and productivity which improves the bottom line of your business.

Increased engagement

A people strategy also helps you develop a more engaged workforce. This is because good people strategies acknowledge that the relationship between companies and employees goes both ways.

When you value and encourage your employees, they feel more connected to your company. And the more connected they feel, the more willing they are to go the extra mile. This will help them become more loyal, work harder, and stay longer at your organization.

In fact, according to a report by Gallup on employee engagement, companies with highly engaged teams are over 20% more profitable and 17% more productive. Ultimately, when employees believe in what they are doing, they’re more invested in contributing to your business’s success.

Commitment to employees

An effective people strategy can help you nurture a sense of organizational commitment in your business. And this, in turn, can help you perform better and reach your goals. It helps your workforce feel more connected to the organization. It also boosts morale, engagement and satisfaction levels. What’s more, employees who feel a sense of commitment and shared purpose are also healthier, more resilient, and more likely to stay at the company.

Studies have shown that employees value support far more than they value workplace perks. By communicating your people strategy, you are showing your employees that you are committed to their wellbeing. And this sense of increased commitment benefits your organization in a number of ways.

For instance, employees who are committed to their organization feel that they fit in. And this helps them align with your vision, mission, and goals. They have developed a sense of loyalty and they want to do what they can to help the organization succeed. And this, in turn, usually results in increased engagement, performance, and productivity.

Support for business strategy & growth

Finally, your people strategy will help you grow as an organization. It will also provide your employees with a clear definition of who you are as an employer. This helps you nurture a sense of cohesiveness and team alignment. It also helps you adapt to changes such as those we all experienced during the pandemic.

The benefits don’t stop there though.

A people strategy can also help you save money and time. For example, happy employees are far more likely to remain at your company. This reduces turnover and boosts performance and productivity. It also enables you to build a workforce that drives your business objectives. And this is the key to building a successful company where everyone understands the vision and goals of the organization.

Ultimately, the biggest advantage of an effective people strategy is that your employees will reach their fullest potential. And this will help your business grow into the successful organization that you want it to be.

Cat Symonds is a freelance writer, editor, and translator. Originally from Wales, she studied Spanish and French at the University of Swansea before moving to Barcelona where she lived and worked for 12 years. She has since relocated back to Wales where she continues to build her business, working with clients in Spain and the UK.  Cat is the founder of The Content CAT: Content And Translation, providing content development and translation services to her clients. She specializes in corporate blogs, articles of interest, ghostwriting, and translation (SP/FR/CA into EN), collaborating with a range of companies from a variety of business sectors. She also offers services to a number of NGOs including Oxfam Intermón, UNICEF, and Corporate Excellence - Centre for Reputation Leadership.  For more information or to contact Cat visit her website or send her a message through LinkedIn.

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