How do you write a People Strategy that people might want to read and is a genuinely useful document? Halpin Consulting Fellow Kim Frost has a few suggestions based on many years of both writing and reading them.
Before you start:
- Don’t get too hung up on the difference between a People Strategy and an HR Strategy. The internet rabbit hole on this topic is deep and dark and I’d stay out of it. Beyond HR and sometimes inside, many of your colleagues will use the terms interchangeably.
- If you are a bit of a purist and want to separate them, I’d put the process stuff (recruitment, performance management and absence systems, compliance and so on) in the HR strategy; and in the People Strategy concentrate on how you’ll support the overall business goals; the sort of culture you want to create to foster the necessary relationship with employees; working with stakeholders; overall success factors etc
- Really know your organisation’s business strategy. This means talking to your colleagues in the different professional areas in depth to understand their medium and long-term challenges and needs (beyond asking you to fill that vacant job that’s just come up or regrade that job for their direct report who keeps complaining about relativities). Yes, of course they haven’t got time, but offer coffee and a muffin and you’ll be amazed what you can learn
- Fully engage with the annual accounts (of course you’d rather be talking to people but you are the HR Director so if finances aren’t your natural thing, find a friendly accountant and ask them to take you through them.
- Become very familiar with the University’s forward plan and any relevant Board papers
- Be clear about your stakeholders. Is it the HR Committee? The Vice-Chancellor’s Executive Group? The Chief Operating Officer? And if you think no-one is really interested and they all just want you to recruit staff and pay the salaries, then get them interested. Refer constantly to the People Strategy you are writing and link what you do to it. Demonstrate to them how useful it will be
- Success measures – how will you demonstrate that you are supporting the University’s overall plan? What KPI’s will you use? Find out what other departments use. Are they relevant for you?
And when you have done all that, three golden rules:
- Use simple language. Almost no-one cares about HR acronyms or jargon
- Keep it to a manageable length. I saw a 30 page People Strategy recently. I think I made it to page 10
- Get the basics of what you do right before you engage with people about your People Strategy. If your colleagues and customers are annoyed about HR’s inefficient recruitment processes or unreliable payroll systems, they will be seriously unimpressed when you turn up to talk about your People Strategy.