5 steps to developing a cutting edge HR strategy

The growing global economy has created a new set of talent and workforce challenges, and HR strategies need to adapt accordingly, writes Josh Bersin

How compelling, up to date and business relevant is your HR strategy? Our research shows that now is the time to revisit this question.

First, what precisely is a HR strategy? I would suggest this is a simple (one or two page) document or set of slides that tells your entire organisation what top strategies, programs, investments and outcomes you are focusing on. What few big problems do you want to help your organisation solve in the coming year? Where are you going to invest in HR? What do you want to change? And how will you hold yourself accountable this year?

Our research shows that the growing global economy has created a new set of talent and workforce challenges in 2015. While every company’s issues are different (some are going through mergers, others through downsizing, and others through business transformation), generally speaking, we find that “winning people business strategies” for 2015 fall into five major areas.

1. Revitalise your leadership program
All our research shows that more than 80 per cent of organisations cite “building a deeper leadership pipeline” as their top priority this coming year. Not only do we have a growing economy but most companies are now heavily focused on hiring and enabling younger teams, yet only 8 per cent tell us they have a program or HR strategy in place to build leadership skills in Millennials.

The problem in leadership is not always at the top, but at the bottom – first line supervisors, project and team leaders, and new managers and senior managers need coaching and support as they transition into people-centric roles. While many companies have a strong program to build top leadership, ask yourself how well you train new supervisors and mid-level leaders. These are the people “running the company”, and it’s important that they have time to learn how to lead, get coaching in the leadership process, meet and learn from each other, and are clear that they want the leadership role they have.

Too many companies make management and leadership the “only way to get ahead”, resulting in leaders who don’t really thrive on the leadership process. Make sure you assess and develop first and second line leaders and your entire organisation will likely improve.

2. Revisit and revamp talent acquisition
Many companies are always hiring, and in 2015 many may be growing globally. This means that your recruiting or talent acquisition process may be stressed again, and you will likely be competing with well-managed companies for top technical, managerial and professional talent.

As many companies now realise, recruiting is possibly the most important thing executives and leaders do. If we don’t bring the “right people” into the business, no amount of management or HR strategy is going to help. So how do we identify, attract and hire the “Best Fit” people for our companies? Our research shows that three things really matter:

  • Develop strong relationships and work closely and intimately with hiring managers. Ultimately, it is the hiring manager who scopes the job, develops a job description and selects the candidate. Your job as an expert in recruitment, assessment or organisation development is to help coach and collaborate with managers to make sure the job is well designed, the criteria of success is defined, and the manager knows “who is most likely to succeed”.
    Many line managers will simply look for people with “proven experience” in the role – but as many of us know, that does not necessarily mean they will succeed in your particular company. Only by studying the characteristics of the highly successful individuals (in an unbiased way) can we really understand who is going to be the “best candidate”.
  • Develop a talent network. The days of “post and pray” for jobs are over, and many candidates are neither “active” nor “passive” – they are always looking. This means that you have to think about recruiting as a never-ending process of building relationships, marketing your company and communicating with college students, candidates, alumni and even your own employees.
    Remember that your own employees will want to move into new positions, and their referral candidates are likely to be the best people you could hire. So rather than thinking about recruiting as a “sales process”, think about it as a process of continuously networking – using the tools of social networking, candidate relationship management, and referral network technology.
  • Understand and manage your employment brand. The idea of employment brand conjures up the idea of advertising. It is so much more. Study what people like about your company and go out and deliver that message.

3. Redesign your goal and performance management system to drive results.
The third big trend around the world is to rethink, redesign and simplify performance management. Only 8 per cent of the companies we studied in 2014 believe their performance management process is worth the time they put into it. Is it adding value or making people miserable? This year is time to rethink it and focus on coaching, feedback and strengths-based assessment. There are now many new models and lots of research to help you.

4. Design a global talent mobility program that supports today’s new workforce.
Succession management, while important at senior levels, is not working well in most companies (less than one-third of all companies have successors identified for senior roles and less than 15 per cent for mid-level or other specialist roles). Rather than trying to implement this process company-wide, develop a HR strategy for talent and career mobility. Give people career coaches to help them find the next job. Incent managers to let people leave and hire from within. Create sound onboarding programs so people can succeed in a new role without fear of failure. Talent mobility and career growth is among the top priorities of high performing Millennials.

5. Rethink your work environment to reinforce your culture and workforce engagement.
Finally, rethink your work environment as a whole. Our new Simply Irresistible research shows that companies must look holistically at all elements of work to create a highly engaged workforce. Job design, management, development opportunities, the work environment and leadership all play a role. Many employees today feel “overwhelmed” by technology, workload and stress at work. We can make work more humane and enjoyable if we look at the new world of work in a whole new way. Everything you do to improve engagement will improve the bottom line – so move beyond the engagement “survey” and rethink your work environment from top to bottom.