5 People-Focused Strategies for Future Success

February 18, 2021

5 People-Focused Strategies for Future Success

Companies used to rely upon traditional command-and-control modes to meet the needs of administration and compliance in HR. Now HR management is moving away from administration and compliance activities to a more holistic, people-focused mindset. With that in mind, here are the five most appropriate people-oriented functions, in order of importance, that will ultimately sustain organizational success. 

1. Leadership Capacity (Benchstrength)

Clearly this is the most critical starting point. It requires building benchstrength at every level: senior or strategist level, middle or operationist level and frontline or team leader level. Each require their own competences and capabilities and need the necessary talent, education and experience to perform effectively. Leadership capacity is the most crucial organization resource to spur profitable growth and keep them on an effective track. Every leader should have their own annual personal growth initiative to nudge them along. Better still, they should put in place an “in-team discovery” activity, spearheaded by their HR strategist, to encourage personal and team growth in leadership-management capabilities. Similar personal and in-team discovery activities should also be orchestrated at mid-level operational and frontline team leader levels. It should also include strategies for developing future leader-manager potential from among frontline people. 

2. Organization Building

In order to build a conducive work environment, consider heterarchies rather than hierarchies. The former is orchestrated from the center and focuses on customers and talent; the latter fixates on who’s at the top and almost exclusively on numbers. Additionally, organization building includes team building and inculcating flexibility into your venture as it scales in size, so as to minimize the likelihood of debilitating bureaucratic cancer. It also includes instilling the right principles, values and practices within your growing venture. These latter factors should particularly address teamwork approaches rather than solo contributor, heroic performances.

3. People Capacity

To embed the right frontline people talent means developing effective pipelines for capable people to flow into your organization. Absorbing ready-made talent often means acquiring new staff with unhelpful habits and attitudes. Alternatively, you can build “role staircases” to enable fresh people talent to arrive from graduate schools, colleges or apprenticeship programs. Such staircase formats enable you to vacuum up valuable talent and acculturate it properly from the get-go. Defining the required “proficient,” “expert” and “master” competencies and capabilities within such staircases provides new employees with a framework that they can grow into and contribute as early as possible.

4. People Motivation

Without the right leadership, organization framework and people capacity investments, people motivation efforts will be largely wasted. That’s why, although many organizations are inclined to place people motivation near the top of their priorities, their overall efforts are so often frittered away. If you don’t have the right pieces in place, it doesn’t pay to throw money at getting people to work harder. When your venture is full of the right leaders, people talent and organization values, then you can likely switch your people motivation factor to growing each worker’s capacity.

Then executives need to address the issue of rewards and benefits. Surprisingly enough, within an effective organization, which has all the earlier desired prerequisites that fully address people engagement, then rewards and benefits are much further down the totem pole. Transactional minded executives seem to have a tough time accepting this, relative to their own financial desires. Give your people respectable remuneration packages in the first place and then the issue will likely become somewhat moot. 

5. Regulatory Compliance (Strategic Inclusion)

Too often firms get things backwards. This is true when organizations invest in systems administrators (efficiency functionaries) rather than “people-strategist” facilitators (effectiveness nudgers). Besides, not only can these efficiency functions be outsourced to allow your HR people-strategists to focus on what really counts; you can instead offer a highly engaged people environment where compliance issues will rarely surface. Too often what can be counted doesn’t count, while what does really count cannot be counted. 

When it comes to strategic inclusion, by pursuing equal opportunity initiatives, ventures will be rewarded by much greater levels of morale and enhanced levels of creativity due to full spectrums of available people talent. Leaders should be encouraged to act as color or personal-affiliation blind as is possible.


HR people-strategists are expected to pursue all five priorities within the context of a solid understanding of their organization’s strategic and operating visions. Consequently, they should expect to be sitting at the strategic table. Even so, that won’t happen without showing enough ability and interest to fully understand where your venture is headed. That means regular field visits as well as forays into home-based activities. Postulating from just sitting behind a desk won’t cut it. Your fellow strategists will expect you to have a solid, practical grasp of their domains.

As a people-strategist you have to demonstrate that you are a worthy contributor by extolling what really counts, rather than being viewed as regulatory functionary. By not allowing yourself to be penned into a regulatory corner, you will be viewed as real active ingredient rather than just a by-product. Such a stance is going to be even more crucial as organizations move into their post-pandemic era.

The Authors: 

Peter A. Arthur-Smith is the Founding Principal with Leadership Solutions, Inc., and author of Smart Decisions: Goodbye Problems, Hello Options