Any organization’s most valuable asset is its people. Leaders know this. That’s why building a people strategy has become an operational priority for businesses that seek sustainable growth, innovation, and long-term success.
Whether you’re a nimble startup aiming to attract and retain top talent in a crowded marketplace, a mid-sized company seeking to bolster workforce engagement and adaptability, or a multinational corporation navigating the complexities of a globalized workforce, the path to sustained success invariably leads through the terrain of strategic human resource management.
What is a People Strategy?
A people strategy, often referred to as a human resources (HR) or workforce strategy, is a comprehensive and structured plan that outlines how an organization intends to manage, develop, and optimize its human capital to achieve its overarching business goals and objectives.
A robust people strategy recognizes that an organization’s employees are its most valuable asset and seeks to align the workforce’s capabilities, aspirations, and performance with the company’s mission, vision, and long-term goals.
People Strategy vs. Human Resources
People strategy and human resources (HR) are both similar concepts and essential in supporting a business’s goals, but they each serve an entirely different purpose and have a distinct focus.
The HR function is primarily concerned with the day-to-day management of personnel and HR-related processes. It focuses on the operational side of people management and how the HR department contributes to business outcomes. HR priorities might include:
- Benefits management
- Talent acquisition
- Compensation management
On the one hand, a people strategy focuses on the employee life cycle. It has a much broader focus and seeks to align the management of human capital with the overall strategic objectives of the organization, thereby ensuring that the workforce is a key driver of achieving business goals. People strategy priorities might include:
- Employee engagement
- Performance management
- Training and development
Why is a People Strategy Important?
A people strategy is important because it recognizes that an organization’s success is fundamentally tied to its workforce. Today, at a time when talent is scarce and competition is fierce, a well-crafted people strategy serves as the linchpin for attracting, nurturing, and retaining top talent. It ensures that an organization’s human capital is aligned with its strategic objectives, driving innovation, productivity, and growth.
A robust people strategy also goes beyond the transactional aspects of HR and focuses on creating a workplace culture that fosters employee engagement, well-being, and development. It acknowledges that employees are not just resources but essential contributors to an organization’s success.
By investing in their professional growth, providing opportunities for advancement, and nurturing a positive work environment, a people strategy not only enhances an organization’s competitive advantage but also helps build a committed and motivated workforce that fuels long-term sustainability and profitability.
5 Best Practices for Creating a People Strategy
A people strategy isn’t something that can be thrown together in an afternoon. It requires careful thought and consideration. It’s ideally something that you’ll put together over time, after accounting for various factors and how they’ll impact your workforce.
To help you get started, we’ve put together five best practices.
1. Motivate Your Employees
The most effective people strategies encourage and enable growth and development throughout the entire employee lifecycle. This naturally creates an engaged and motivated workforce—these are the people most likely to be dedicated to their roles and contribute highly to the organization.
“Employers who value and encourage their employees… see increased levels of loyalty,” according to associate professor Dr. Belinda Wee of the Husson University School of Business Management. “Employees who know that they are being developed by their companies work harder and stay longer. The investment in time and effort is a great pay-off for companies.”
An effective people strategy therefore begins with motivated employees; these people are the ones who will stick around and deliver results in the long term.
2. Conduct Workforce Analyses
You might already have a vision for your people strategy—that’s great! But it’s best to gather data that can help to inform your plan. This will help you build your strategy out in a thorough and robust way.
One of the best ways to do this is through an in-depth analysis of your current workforce. Identify their strengths, weaknesses, skills, and competencies. Additionally, consider demographic shifts and industry trends that may impact your talent needs. This analysis forms the foundation for effective workforce planning.
Look for qualitative data like diversity metrics, turnover rate, sick days, average time in roles, and more. This information is priceless and helps you to build out a dataset in an actionable way, thereby giving your people strategy something to address.
3. Prioritize Learning and Development
Any organization’s primary focus should be on enhancing the skills and knowledge of their existing workforce. This is one of the best ways to mold and retain the best talent, setting the organization in good stead for the future. Training opportunities also provide an organization with talent primed for internal mobility, making it easier to fill critical roles.
According to a 2020 LinkedIn study on global talent trends, additional training opportunities motivated 73% of employees to remain with their current employer. This sends a clear message: When employees are equipped with the skills that they need to perform well in their roles, they feel empowered.
Learning and development should ideally go beyond role-specific mandatory training and include a variety of opportunities to cross-train and cross-skill through various on-site, virtual, and residential delivery options. Beyond training, organizations should also consider offering opportunities for further education and professional certifications.
4. Collect Regular Feedback
Employee feedback is critical for helping people teams to understand the employee experience. It also enables people teams to see which people strategy initiatives are working and, perhaps more importantly, which ones aren’t.
If, for example, employees by and large don’t feel like they’ve got a clear career pathway or progression, collecting feedback directly from employees—both quantitative and qualitative—can help people teams to identify how and where to improve career progression and promotion cycles.
Collecting feedback also shows employees that the people team values their thoughts and opinions. This naturally leads to more trusting employees who feel safe and secure in their roles.
5. Always Be Tracking and Changing
People strategies are highly dynamic and can change as the wind blows. It’s certainly not something that can be implemented and forgotten about; it must be tracked over time to ensure that it’s working to help the organization meet its goals.
It is therefore important for people teams to regularly check up on the overarching people strategy to ensure that it doesn’t need any updates or changes, and adjust it if a need for change is identified.