By: Hank Provost
The best way to think about effective execution of an organizations strategy is that ‘just having the right solution (strategy) is never enough’. Getting the outcomes wanted from product, marketing, supply chain, innovation, sales and financial strategies always rely on getting the workforce fully engaged and moving in the same direction.
Unfortunately, too many senior leaders put their efforts into articulating the strategies for growth but little time into assuring that the execution by the people in the company is planned, communicated, and enabled. Company culture will most surely either ‘eat your strategy for lunch’ or ‘drive seamless execution through people’. Your choice for sure.
William Craig, writing recently in Forbes Magazine offered that “Many businesses forget the importance of culture and put strategy first. Perhaps they think culture takes care of itself, but that’s not the case. Company culture means taking care of each other to do more for the world with your services and products.”
More importantly, there is no individual or group who can play a larger role in driving the connection between strategy and culture than the Chief People Officer and their team. While other leaders in the company have responsibility for assuring their people are engaged in the work of executing strategies and operational plans, it the HR/People leader, most responsible for building culture who can also best influence making the connection enterprise-wide.
However, saying that and making it happen has historically been the unenviable challenge of the HR/People organization. How can the Chief People Officer and their teams insert themselves into this work and assure connection between strategy and culture? Here are a few critical actions you can take today and in the coming months:
- Commit yourself to learning and knowing your organization’s strategy from top to bottom. HR/People leaders who can’t articulate and speak to their organizations strategy are quickly dismissed as just the ‘HR person’. Think of yourself as one of the ‘business owners’ or better yet ‘organizational strategists’. When other leaders believe you know how the business creates value and makes money, they are much more likely to consider you a credible advocate for people and culture.
- Bring data to the table. Strategies, well-developed are built upon strong quantitative and qualitative data. This includes historical and predictive. What are the engagement levels of the workforce? What are the skill needs in the workplace and how does that match the external marketplace? What are the skill levels among your people and what further training is required? What other compensation/benefits issues exist that support an engaged workplace? What’s happening with sourcing and recruitment fill rates? Is the retention among key people falling? Can you make the connection between the state of the workforce and the organizations ability to execute on strategy?
- Involve yourself, and that of your team in the strategy development process in the company. Do you have a relationship with the Chief Strategy Officer to the extent they will give you a platform in the strategy work? Are you being surprised by what comes from the strategy process or are you connected and involved? How much involvement do your HR/People team members have in the strategy process? Even if you meet as an HR/People team to discuss the overall strategy elements and identify the implications for the culture/workforce, you can increase your connection to the strategy plan.
- Schedule regular meetings with your Chief Strategy Officer (or appropriate leader) to meet with you and your leaders to discuss the strategy, the progress of its development and execution, and to inform them on the implications for the workforce and culture. Both learn from that leader as well and educate them on the cultural issues that need to be addressed in the strategies.
- If not already in place, influence your senior leadership to include a Culture piece in the strategy. This is certainly a ‘best case’ situation for you, your team, and the organization. When the organization has a specific, connected, and measurable culture/workforce plank in the overall organizational strategy, there is less likelihood that people and culture will be missed.
- Network with other HR/People Leaders in the community who can help you to learn how to build your credibility as a member of the strategy team in your organization. Most HR/People leaders today are challenged with building culture and people strategies. You don’t have to ‘go it alone’.
And most importantly, enjoy your venture into strategy work in your organization. You may be surprised by how fulfilling it can be. Moreover, it is very likely to enhance your personal brand and overall influence with the leadership.