Do you have a People Strategy to Support Your Business Strategy?

Do you have a People Strategy to Support Your Business Strategy?

Over the decades, my partner Carrie Maslen and I have sat through countless business plan presentations all over the world. We have reviewed plans from F500’s, to mid size companies, to start ups and emerging companies.

We have seen some great plans and some poor plans, with everything in between.  We’ve sat in reviews inspired by the vision and detailed plan and sat in reviews both bored and sad by what was clearly a plan built to fail.

But whether the plans were great ones, good ones, average ones, or pathetic ones, what we rarely saw was a “people strategy” plan designed and built to ensure an effective execution, with desired results, of the business and/or strategic plan.

What’s the Missing Link?

While many F500 countries have talent plans, succession plans, and resource plans, few of these plans actually drive working group level talent plans. Yes, they have functional, incremental headcount plans, but that’s by far not enough!

As an example, a company that wants to grow at 3X the market will generally add sales and support resources, but fail to analyze the team for the more nuanced aspects necessary for a high propensity plan to succeed.

This nuance - a talent strategy - is the missing link in many business plans.

A Tale of Two Companies

Company #1: A Solid Business Plan Without a Talent Strategy

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Years ago, I met with a Company #1. They had a wonderful strategic vision to attack the market, grow at triple digits, and ultimately sell the business at a highly attractive multiple.

To me, it appeared they had not just the vision, but the energy and risk profile necessary to take on such an aggressive plan. The business plan was flawless, with clear ownership, accountability, escalation paths, and even a resource plan with incremental new hires.  

But while there was additional headcount in the plan, it failed to analyze the current existing talent and what changes in addition to the new hires were necessary.

What they had was a team of exceptional relationship personnel, likable, friendly, amiable, and always willing to make it right. Internal meetings and strategic choice points were friendly affairs with little to no contention and a leadership culture that placed the highest emphasis on getting along.

Who could question this approach? The company had grown reasonably well, and ownership had created solid wealth for himself and reasonable wealth for his top three senior leaders. With this positive history, why change?

Their marketing team, while great for a start up company, lacked scalability and was stuck in a rut of prior experiences.  ROI on marketing spend was slowly falling and here again no one challenged the poor results, as they operated in a culture that frowned on constructive contention.

In addition, introspection skills on the part of functional leaders were non-existent. It was crystal clear to Carrie and me that the current Marketing team’s leadership and skills would put the company’s firm 3X growth plan at risk.

The leadership team had similar deficiencies. A group of late-middle aged white men, with great start up company skills, who had experienced a lot.  

While great guys, they had a limited understanding and failed to see the value of the changing worlds of digital marketing, next generation selling skills, the power of gender balance in management and an under-appreciation of a diverse work force.

Net-net, while their strategic plan was sound, their lack of understanding of the human resource changes necessary to execute their plan and to achieve their desired results were absent. Their “change and evolve” on the fly didn’t work and they ultimately reverted back to their comfort zone, never realizing the company’s true value.

Company #2: A Focus on People and Talent

Company #2 was a completely different story, and it started at the top. The founder had highly developed talent appraisal skills and, even more importantly, was highly introspective. He knew that to meet or beat his aggressive five-year growth plans, epochal change in developing, adding, and changing talent was necessary.

Together with key members of his team, they built a talent plan deeply embedded within their overarching three-year strategic plan.

The basis of his people plan was profound.  It had bold decisions consisting of a commitment to diversity, adding women to leadership, changing out functional leaders where necessary, a comprehensive employee development program, and a compensation adjustment that tied all employees financially to key milestones in the plan.

People investment ahead of revenue, while risky, was a major component of the plan.

But the biggest decision relative to talent was epic. This leader came to the conclusion that he was no longer the right leader to take his company to the next level. He knew his skills were not up to the task to crack through the $500 million barrier, and he knew he had an obligation to his employees and investors to step down and bring in a new CEO.

The strategy worked. He brought in, and more importantly, empowered a new leader who executed the plan flawlessly, taking the company to new levels and a highly successful IPO.

It’s Time to Focus on Talent

Unfortunately, our experience is that we rarely see a comprehensive people strategy aligned to a strategic company plan. Yes, we see some hiring and firing, some adjustments, and even some bold ad hoc moves, but true comprehensive people plans embedded into a business plan are rare.

Are you spending as much time on your talent and people plan as you are on your strategic, tactical, departmental plans? If not, why not?

In today’s accelerated changing world, the viability of you and your company are at stake.

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