People Strategy for your Business or Team

People Strategy for your Business or Team – for Leaders

If you want to lead or run a business, you should have a People Strategy.

Taking your business strategy as a baseline, a basic People Strategy will look at the work to be done, and give you a clear focus on required capabilities (skills), culture, structure and leadership. You look at where you are now, where you’d like to be and how the gap is best filled.

A cooler version of a People Strategy looks at how people (i.e., your team or partners) can be a genuine competitive advantage. It looks at capabilities, culture and leadership as important components of a winning business strategy.

Many businesses, even some quite big ones, run on “then I needed another person, so I got them” way of working. This is both limiting and risky. As soon as you have to compete against a business that takes the people side of the business seriously, you’ll probably lose. They will be clearer on the work to be done, the people they need to do it, the way they’re going to treat people, and the way they’ll sustain their team. Charm and a good LinkedIn Leadership quote will only get you so far. People deserve their working life in better hands than that.

It’s always baffling when so many people say “people are my business’s greatest asset” and then run that “greatest asset” with no real plan.

You wouldn’t run your finances like that, so why run your people like this?

The last thing to remember about a People Strategy is that is heavily based in context. That’s why they all so unique. Your current context, changing context, and your context relative to competitors or alternative places your team could work.


© 2017 All rights reserved
mwah. making work absolutely human


Why write a people strategy?

A people strategy will ensure that your team are able to support your business plans.

Whether you’re growing, or shrinking, or just trying to stay the course, you will have a work to be done, and you will need your team to be able to do it. And sorry if that sounds too obvious.

The real benefit of a People Strategy is getting granular on the priorities around people;

  • Your context – Industry, Market, and Relative to Competitor Context
  • Current State – what’s working, what’s not; what’s creating opportunities, what’s closing opportunities down; what’s keeping you up at night and what are you really confident about?
  • Future Plans – What you would change if you could; what needs to be better?
  • What capabilities and skills do you need in your business? How are they best obtained? Are you recruiting or developing or both?
  • What leadership do you need in your business and what is the best structure and design to get that leadership working well?
  • What culture do you need in the business? How do people work together now, and how could that be improved.

Based on your current state and future plans, what are the plans to move from your current team as it is, to your new or required team, as it will need to be. This includes financial investment, numbers of people, development plans, recruitment plans, and where appropriate or required, exit plans.

You’re running a business, so what are the measurements of success, so you can make sure you People Strategy is working.

And that’s why you need a people strategy. Otherwise, every one of those decisions will be ad hoc, reactive and most probably not aligned to your business.

A simple template to get started

You can genuinely do a quick People Strategy on the back of an envelope. The mwah. People Strategy – simple template is attached below.

That said, when most leaders or business owners jot down a People Strategy on the back of an envelope over lunch, they almost always immediately see the need for a detailed People Strategy. Its apparent pretty quickly that a few hours mapping out the detail will save you a lot of pain in trying to rectify poor decisions made on the fly.

A “People Strategy’ session

An alternative to a People Strategy on the back of an envelope, is a People Strategy Session. This is a strategy workshop specifically designed to talk ‘people’ in your business.

There is a Facilitation Guide – How to Make a Great People Strategy, which you can download and use to facilitate this session within your business. It is designed to take between three and eight hours, depending on the number of people you have in the room, the complexity of your business, the time you want to allow for conversation and debate, and the level of granular detail you want to get to. There is a handy facilitation guide attached to help you develop a great people strategy.

Resourcing the people strategy

As you build you People Strategy, remember to be clear on accountability and resourcing. It needs to be woven into people’s jobs not left as an ‘add on’. ‘Add ons’ rarely get prioritised, nor do they have sufficient attention or time applied to them.

If you’ve listed off new recruitment assignments or new training, you need to be clear on who is doing the recruitment or training, and the investment that is being made. Its probable when you see the long list of training, for example, that you will need to either rethink resourcing, or shorten the list of things you want to do, or lengthen the timeframe you commit to.

Because your team will be excited about things like training, when you communicate the plan, you have to make sure you’ve resourced it and you will deliver it. Clear priorities, resources and timeframes, will make sure everyone is working to the same commitments.

If you’ve added new reward or appreciation ideas, or new process expectations, you need to weave them into every leader’s and every employees expectations as well, and again, make sure the accountability and expectations are clear. If you want all teams to be accountable for Team Performance Sessions, then be clear on how many and when, and be open to feedback in order to tweak expectations if the original ones aren’t working well.

Leading the people strategy

Leaders lead the People Strategy. There are many components where employees can be actively involved in both design and execution – for example, team Performance Sessions or Diversity Networks – but the overall strategy, the decisions and commitments to resources, priorities and timeframes, is owned by the leader or Leadership Team in bigger businesses.

If your business is credible in the people space, then leading the People Strategy can be a great opportunity for any leader. When the business is not credible, or hasn’t really paid attention to this area in the past, then the only person who can lead is the CEO or Business Owner. “People” are so fundamental to a business, (in fact, isn’t that all a business is – a team of people executing a common idea or plan) that they have to see the Strategy that looks after them – the People Strategy – being led by the person who has absolute accountability for the business.

People, like leadership of the financial Strategy, cannot be delegated.

Communicating the people strategy

The People Strategy impacts every individual so fundamentally, that it is a great one to fully communicate with your team. So often, people crowd into a lunchroom, or Town Hall, and hear all about the new financial plan, or a new customer, but the bit about how it impacts them is left off. When this happens, people fill up the gaps with whatever they imagine might be the case.

Losing a customer becomes ‘staff cuts’. Winning a big contract becomes new opportunities for promotion. Tight budgets become ‘no bonuses’ or ‘no training’. Geographic expansion becomes an opportunity to move to Europe. To avoid the speculation, you should be clear how the people piece links to the business plans or events. If it is ‘staff cuts’, own that and explain why. Painful as that is, it is honest and you’ll quickly become trusted. Usually want the business they’re working at to be successful, so the more open you can be, the more they’ll get involved and help.

As a general rule of thumb, you write a People Plan annually (more often if you’re in a tumultuous environment with lots changing), and update and communicate it, quarterly. That rhythm means everyone on the team has common expectations, knows when things are changing, and can settle in to feeling confident and secure in the business.

Measuring the people strategy

The best businesses have a balanced scorecard. That means they’re measured across financial measured, people measures and community/society measures.

Here’s a good list of people measures that come in handy –

  • Headcount
  • Full-Time-Equivalent employees (to take into account flexibility)
  • Leaders to Normal Employee Ratios
  • Absences (Annual Leave, Sick Leave and Other Leave)
  • Training (Average per person and aggregate, plus number of people impacted)
  • Turnover (Voluntary and Involuntary)
  • Engagement (or Net Promoter Scores)
  • Number of Recruits
  • Number of Promotions

When you’re measuring a People Strategy you’ve measuring these things regularly, and then measuring change. A few things will impact these scores, but the change is a good start to measure the impact of the People Strategy.

Ultimately, this list of ‘Human Capital’ or “People” Scores are the backbone of your understanding of your team. What’s working, what’s not, what’s changing and what’s not. Plus and minus a little commentary on the insights they provide, these numbers are your People Scorecard. In an ideal situation you’d give you Board, Leaders and Employees access to the numbers, just as you would the financial numbers.


© 2017 All rights reserved
mwah. making work absolutely human


Becoming an expert in the People Strategy takes practice and experience.

There’s a couple of ways you can take your People Strategy up a notch fairly quickly.

Here’s some suggestions –

  1. ‘Table Review’ in advance – Look at the in detail at your team, their talent, their development plans, their ambitions, and then compare all of that to where you want to be.
  2. Best Practice Review – If there’s an idea you really like, find a business that’s doing it, and go visit them. Ask them how it works, and any lessons they’ve learned
  3. Be Creative – You’re creative with products and services, and with Marketing, why not be creative in the people stuff as well. Think of fun names to ‘brand’ your processes with, or a slightly different tack that everyone might really engage in.
  4. Bring in an expert as coach – Take your back of the envelope plan, and spend a few hours with an expert in the People space. Ask them to challenge you and challenge your preparation for the People Strategy Session. How do you make it a great session.
  5. Bring in an expert Facilitator – If you want to immerse yourself in the People Strategy Session, bring in an expert facilitator to work the workshop for you. You can still open, close and lead, but they can keep the debates and conversations moving along to the outcome you want.


mwah. will also be doing some free on-line workshops on Building A Great People Strategy, for our community, so watch our website for times, dates and logistics. We also have face-to-face workshops planned for the near future. Again, keep an eye on our news.


© 2017 All rights reserved
mwah. making work absolutely human

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