HR Is Now a Priority in Strategic Planning

July 16, 2019

HR Is Now a Priority in Strategic Planning

In the past couple of years, the demand for human resource executives has grown. In fact, the HR function has ascended the ranks in demand, from one of the least-requested roles to one of the most-requested roles. Why? 

Increased organizational need for human resources and talent acquisition expertise in 2019 and beyond is no surprise given the tight current labor market. Indeed, Vistage, an executive coaching organization, recently published its CEO Projections for 2019. Based on a poll of 1,257 of members, the survey revealed CEOs’ top five major decisions in the coming year: 

  1. Hiring, recruitment, sourcing
  2. Market development
  3. Productivity and execution
  4. Financial management
  5. Capital/cash management

Based on our own experience, we don’t see this general trend changing in the near future. One of the reasons hiring, recruitment, and sourcing now tops the list is that CEOs realize how critical talent is to all other efforts in the organization. 

We interviewed a few interim human resource executives who have stepped into organizations to help build a talent strategy that can support the company’s goals. There were four recurring themes with regards to the biggest gaps they found when they were brought in to help an organization. These are the biggest opportunities for making an impact and where so many companies are missing the mark. 

Workforce Planning 
Workforce planning helps move the company forward: It’s the strategy that transforms an organization from a piecemeal hiring approach, starting behind the eight ball with each hire, to a forward-thinking employer of choice with multiple candidates in the pipeline before a new position(s) is even available.  

Bruce Dougan, interim CHRO, believes, “Talent management starts with workforce planning…it can be simple as sitting down your leadership team and saying, how many people do you currently have, how many will you need next month, [the] next six months, [the] next three years? What kind of skills are different than what you currently have? Which skills are becoming more difficult to source and find? The next part of that is really taking a look at your current organization and saying, ‘Who’s going to stay? Who’s going to move on? Who are you ready to promote? Who’s about ready to retire, and we’re going to lose a lot of good information that’s been acquired over many, many years?’  HR should be leading that session so at the end, you have a very clear picture of what your needs are going to be over the next three months, six months, and a year.” 

  • What skills will we need?
  • What talent do we need to provide those skills?
  • Which skills and talent do we currently have, what can be trained by the time it is needed, and what do we need to recruit for?
  • What openings within the current talent will we have?

Workforce planning is the foundation for other key talent strategies, such as career planning, candidate care, and training. 

Career Planning
Workforce planning takes place at the enterprise level; career planning considers many of the same questions, but from the perspective (and for the benefit) of both the company and employees. Asking questions regarding what valued talent would like to contribute in the next couple of years can bring out otherwise unknown information until it is too late, such as:

  • Previously undiscovered skills and affinities that could be better utilized elsewhere in the company.
  • Dissatisfaction with a current role and plans not to stay at the company longer than six months.
  • Little or no desire to do much beyond their current role due to its consistent, steady nature, or a comfort level and diminished motivation/inspiration.
  • Desire to do something more or else, but a lack the skills or knowledge of what is needed to contribute more. 

Proactively using career planning to identify gaps can stave off potential employee loss and knowledge loss. It can be like having a crystal ball when it comes time to plan for skill set training or employee care opportunities.

Candidate Care
Knowing in advance the talent who will be needed prior to recruiting can help drive messaging and talent curation, building the brand future candidates want to join (or even to respond to). Ensuring candidates have a good interviewing and on-boarding experience often involves training hiring managers in the process; unsurprisingly, such training is also the first step in building a company culture that candidates then want to stay in. 

My sister was interviewing for a job recently. Over a two-week period, she was offered the same job four times by three different people, but was not told anything more than what was in the job posting until she accepted the role, at which point she was then sent to administration, where they would review salary and benefits with her. The pay was well above market, but she never got the bad taste out of her mouth from the initial experience and declined the job in the end. Though this is an extreme example, it reminds us that first impressions make a lasting impression for candidates. 

At the leadership level, we know exactly what “candidate care” means and what it should look like. When this clarity is not shared throughout the organization, including the hiring managers, that’s a flag; the foundation of the HR organization is wobbly and needs shoring up. 

Employee training is always high on this list, whether it is to upskill the staff or part of succession planning. This year, more than ever, human resource organizations are focusing their training efforts at the managerial level. (I was recently at a talent acquisition conference. I sat at a table with a handful of talent acquisition leaders, and this was the top initiative for talent acquisition teams this year.)

The organizational cost and impact of untrained managers throughout the hiring process has become apparent to more and more organizations. We placed an interim Director of Talent Acquisition last year who solely focused on training the client organization’s hiring managers. The organization found the increasing number of 90-day quick-quits was due to inconsistent hiring and interview processes among hiring managers. After designing and implementing a standardized process and tool suite, including a face-to-face training module and a Hiring and Interview Skills workshop for more than 300 managers, the quick-quit rate was reduced initially by 4 percent while cross-departmental duplication of efforts was also substantially decreased. 

Investments in training and skills development are the most granular moving piece in the increasingly complex HR puzzle, cascading down from objectives and goals stated in the strategic plan. 

Sourcing and Managing Talent into the 2020s and Beyond
Human resources has gone from being the defensive line to the offensive line of the company. The organization’s vision and strategy are heavily dependent on the right talent to execute it. With the rising tide of retirements as Baby Boomers age out of the workforce and talent of all ages embraces the flexibility and freedom of the gig economy, we fully expect innovative human resources leadership to continue to be an integral part of strategic planning in the coming decade. 

For more on talent management strategies, including employee engagement, diversity, and recruiting those with disabilities, view the HRPS white papers

The Authors: 

Kristen McAlister is Co-Owner of Cerius Executives and co-author of The New Executive Search: How Smart Companies are Using Interim Executives and How I Fired My Boss and Made More Money.