Is your workforce aligned with your evolving business strategy?

While business dynamics are temporarily disrupted due to public health concerns and social unrest, organizations are looking internally and having deeper discussions about how their businesses are being impacted.  According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, “One lesson from previous downturns is that companies that are proactive and growth oriented, even as they shore up their vulnerabilities, will have an edge coming out of the crisis.”

Successful business strategies are defined with mission, values and culture in mind, but with our economy changing daily, these strategies must be adapted accordingly.

As HR professionals look at their organization and discuss their organizational strategy with leadership and key stakeholders, one of the critical questions has become, “Is our workforce aligned with our evolving business strategy?”

According to Silzer and Dowell’s Strategy-Driven Talent Management, leaders of top performing organizations understand the significance of talent management for advancing business strategy, driving competitive advantage, and strengthening the long-term viability of their organizations.  To achieve these outcomes, talent management solutions must be effectively aligned with an organization’s mission, vision, and values and fully integrated into its long-term strategic planning.

This may be a significant change for many organizations, where workforce planning and people management have traditionally been considered as activities that are independent from business strategy. To advance growth, key HR practice areas (e.g., recruiting, staffing, compensation, training & development, and succession planning), which may have been previously managed as separate operations with independent goals and direction, need to be strategically aligned as a unified function.

To align your workforce to your evolving business strategy, we recommend you take the following actions:


Adapt your competency models for this new era to reflect what is needed from your workforce to thrive

Competency models focus on identifying the skills and behaviors that represent the vision of the organization and communicate the business strategy, key aspects of the culture, and in many cases, the aspirations of the organization. If your competency model is based on an outdated business strategy, it likely needs to be updated to ensure it supports the organization’s evolving strategic vision. For example, digital fluency, innovation, and/or entrepreneurialism may be critical attributes that are now needed from the workforce to accelerate future growth. Your competency model, once refined, allows your organization to communicate updated expectations and provide the organization a solid foundation from which to make potential changes to a range of HR tools and talent management processes.


Create context-adjusted, future-oriented, scalable experiences for high potentials and senior leaders

Today’s evolving and uncertain landscape has forced organizations to tighten budgets, making it more important to spend limited dollars wisely. Focusing on identifying and developing pivotal talent (i.e., leaders and high potentials) necessary to execute your business strategy continues to warrant investment, as these individuals will be the driving force to keep your organization moving forward.  Competencies such as “Resiliency” and “Learning Agility” are needed now more than ever in leaders, making it important to assess your workforce against what it will take to be successful in an unknown future. The fundamentals of a best practice leadership assessment process have not changed, and producing a holistic and well-rounded picture of your workforce allows you to align for the future and support impending organizational changes and strategies.  By incorporating a future-focused context, these leadership assessment and development initiatives also take into account the global, economic, competitive and market challenges facing the organization, as well as the organization’s structure, culture and strategic objectives. Your ultimate goal should be to assess your high potentials and senior leaders in a context reflective of the business strategies that mirror your new world.


Assess new talent for capabilities needed for future success — They may be different than what was needed in 2019

Whether you are currently hiring, or proactively planning for the future, this is the time to consider what changes may be needed to ensure that your hiring approach reflects your organization’s current and future business objectives. Many organizations that are currently hiring have already transitioned to a virtual hiring process, but if the requirements necessary to be successful in the role have changed, then the content of your pre-employment assessments and interviews may need to be modified as well. As working from home becomes a more permanent situation for many employees, companies may want to consider assessing future hires for traits and skills necessary to be successful when working from home (e.g., communication, technical fluency, adaptability, collaboration). Whatever changes may be occurring in your organization, it will be important to assess for the capabilities associated with success in the current work environment of the job for which candidates are applying.  This helps candidates understand job requirements and your organizational culture, while allowing your organization to identify and select the very best candidates needed for future success.


Determine success metrics now and use them to establish future ROI

Research shows organizational stakeholders will expect evidence demonstrating that any changes to HR programs are meeting business objectives and contributing to strategic success.  Any program designed to select, develop, and retain talent should be grounded in evidence-based practices.  In today’s context, these programs will face increased scrutiny, and there will be an ongoing need to prove their usefulness, highlight impact on the bottom line, and demonstrate alignment with the organization’s evolving mission. In designing an evaluation process, first clarify the business challenges and key strategic priorities that the program is attempting to address. Also identify the stakeholder groups that the program will impact and that can influence its success or failure. Ideally, stakeholder identification and program goals will be identified before the program is designed and implemented. Using thoughtful analyses to identify linkages between the HR program and the business outcomes will identify specific, measurable ways that these programs have advanced the business objectives.

The best approach for realizing the full benefits of aligning your workforce to your business strategy is to develop a thorough understanding of what is required to meet the organization’s objectives and strategies and to evaluate talent processes and programs against those criteria.  Your organization is unique, and deserves more than a one-size fits all intervention.

Cookie-cutter solutions may work in the short-term, but we have found that meeting our customers where they are, and partnering with them on their journey, is the only way to consistently address the larger and long-term challenges.

We are living in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex & ambiguous) world, which is clearly not going away, and the people that make up your organization will continue to be one of your most valuable assets.


Do you have a tough question you are wrestling with?

Please let us know, and we may include it in future installments of this series coming to your inbox soon. In the meantime, we invite you to learn more about how organizations are aligning their people and talent processes to create and sustain a vital and highly productive workforce, now and into the future.