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Future proof your Human Resources strategy: 5 critical steps

If you think it’s important to have a business plan and strategic vision, you need a human resources (HR) plan, too. It’s just as critical. An HR plan gets your people ready to execute on your business strategy and goals. It helps you prepare your current staff and anticipate the people you’ll need to add in the future. It preps your business for employee turnover and your managers for making future hiring decisions more strategically. A good HR plan should also include a succession plan, so you can limit disruptions to your business should there be a change in management or structure. Here are five critical steps to creating an effective HR plan for your company.

1. Assess your current workforce Your first step in strategic HR planning is identifying your current employees’ knowledge, skills and abilities. This includes evaluating your employees’ strengths, education levels and additional training or certifications. But you shouldn’t stop there. You should also consider what talents they have beyond their current job descriptions. For example, your data entry employee may also have a knack for building customer relationships. You can pick up on these less obvious talents by getting to know your employees through regular conversations – both formal and informal. And chances are your personnel files already contain a wealth of information you need to help monitor your employees’ talents and skills, such as:

  • Resume

  • Continuing education history

  • Performance appraisals

  • Projects completed

Having a system (like an interactive organizational chart) to capture and archive your employees’ information can make keeping track of your employees’ talents easier. At the same time, your employees will feel more valued if it’s clear that you’re making note of their strengths. In addition, performance reviews can help you determine when employees are willing and able to assume additional responsibilities. When employees consistently rank high in all categories, it is a good indicator they may be ready to take on some more challenging work. Not all employees want to move to other positions, though. If this is the case, look for ways to challenge them in their current roles.

2. Create employee development plans Having qualified employees is only one step when building a long-term, winning workforce. To make a real impact, your employees’ work needs to support the company’s growth goals. You can do this by making an employee development plan for your employees. This will help you create clear direction on how to increase their skills and advance their careers so that your business can forge ahead. Follow these steps to help make sure your employees’ development plans are on point. 1. Consider your business goals – Before you set objectives for employees, you should try to align their development plan with your company’s needs. 2. Talk to your employees – Don’t just assume you know your employees’ skill levels and career aspirations. 3. Decide what skills your employees need – Once you’ve looked at each of your employees’ abilities and experience, as well as your company’s needs, decide exactly what skills each person needs to acquire. 4. Create an action plan – Once you know what the objectives are, you can figure out how your employee will go about achieving them. 5. Apply the new skills in the workplace – Set up some opportunities where your employees can quickly apply the new skills to the job and get feedback. It’s important that your company doesn’t neglect the employees you already have – especially top performers. Even for your high achievers, there’s always room for improvement, and they still need development-focused attention from you. Also make sure your employee development plans have a positive connotation in your company (and that they’re not viewed as a form of corrective action) by presenting them as an opportunity to maximize potential, grow and get better all around. The top reason employees stay with a company is they feel challenged by their work, according to an Aberdeen report. In fact, 34 percent reported that they are sticking with their current employer because they foresee an opportunity to be part of the future growth of the company.

3. Create a succession plan With business growth comes change. It’s inevitable. Whether it’s a shift in the executive team or a reorganization of departments, you need to be prepared. A succession plan can help you minimize disruption by identifying critical roles in your business and employees who have the skills to immediately assume these positions, should someone leave. You may choose to involve employees directly in creating your succession plan. This would mean having conversations with all of your employees to find out what their career goals are, where they see themselves in the future, and what development they feel they need in order to get there. You can also create your succession plan behind the scenes. The choice really depends on what your organization’s culture is like. In addition, you should always be prepared to keep your employees well informed about changes and explain how exactly a change may affect them. Transparency eases anxiety and keeps your employees from imagining negative reasons for the changes.

4. Perform a gap analysis A gap analysis helps you identify what resources your company has and what you’ll need in the future. When performing a gap analysis, you’ll assess your HR practices and infrastructure to determine where your company is falling short. For example, some of your HR practices may be designed to fit where your company was five years ago, but don’t meet your needs today or where you plan to be soon. After a gap analysis, you can improve your current procedures and implement new practices that will better support your business’s growth. When conducting a gap analysis, take a look at your:

  • Job descriptions – Do they match the expectations you currently have for your employees and outline all the necessary skills and requirements?

  • Employee handbook – Have you reviewed and/or refreshed it in the last two years? Check to see if your policies are still aligned with employment laws. This is especially important if you’ve expanded into new cities or states where you may be subject to different regulations. When was the last time your employees read the handbook? Consider asking them to re-read it once you make updates.

  • Training programs – Are your employees being prepared for their roles in an organized way that still makes sense according to business needs?

  • Health benefits – Are you providing what is required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) while also meeting the needs of your employees?

  • Sick days – New paid sick day standards are emerging across the country in a few states and a growing number of cities. Check the current sick days laws to be sure you’re in compliance.

  • Business performance – If revenue is climbing, it may make sense to up your contributions to your employees’ retirement accounts or award more days of PTO, which will add value to your total rewards package. If revenue is down, consider scaling back on some of those benefits to help stabilize your business.

5. Decide if/how to increase resources for the future As your business grows, so will your staffing needs. To find the best people for the job and your business, you must know what you’re looking for. Review the information you have gathered about your current workforce. Do you have enough people? Do they have the right skills and know-how to help you achieve your business goals? This information can help you decide what jobs need to be filled and who would be the best fit. From there, you can determine if you can promote from within or if you’ll need to recruit new talent as your business grows. This is where your skills inventory is especially helpful. Do you already have a potential fit within? Do you need the skills to be mastered already, or could they be attained through training? Many times a current employee who is a known culture fit is worth some additional training. Now look at your potential staffing challenges. Here are some of the most common struggles that could make it difficult for you to recruit new employees:

  • Your current total rewards package doesn’t meet the expectations of your ideal candidates.

  • Upcoming technology changes or shifts within the economy make it difficult to recruit quality talent. For example, say your business needs to adopt a new technology and there’s a shortage of experienced candidates who are qualified to fill the relevant positions (also known as a skills gap).

  • Your company culture is poor, which is a major turnoff for highly qualified candidates who can be choosy about where they work.

Knowing these things can help you avoid recruiting roadblocks before they become a problem. Try to resolve potential issues before bringing in a new employee. Make sure that the environment is right to attract and retain top talent. Otherwise, you may find yourself constantly replacing employees. Remember: HR planning is an ongoing process. Your strategy should be reviewed regularly and updated as your organization changes.


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