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MAPping the Future

Do you have a ‘build back better’ people strategy?

If there is any silver lining in the COVID-19 cloud, the greatest existential crisis that we have faced in our lifetimes, it is the opportunity for nations, societies, communities, businesses and individuals to pause, reflect and realize what is really important and significant. If you have not, for one reason or the other, paused and reflected, it is not yet too late to do so.

Such soul searching, if done sincerely and deeply, provides business leaders an opportunity to restrategize and pivot their organizations. In my work as business and human resource strategy practitioner and adviser, I propose six must-dos for businesses and all organizations based on my learnings of the past 17 months.

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The pursuit of profits has to be complemented by a relentless drive to have a purpose.

The care for our planet provides long-term protection for all.

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The deep social inequalities have to be addressed by all stakeholders.

Digitalization and technology will accelerate at warp speed and infrastructure, and management has to adapt.

Placing people first has always been part of the talk and the challenge is how do we truly walk it.

Business leaders must do all of the above with the utmost sincerity and integrity, and not simply engage in lip service or public relations exercises.

I wish to focus on placing people first. How do we walk the talk?

Placing people first is not a touchy-feely employee welfare initiative. It is about unleashing the power of people—our most important resource—to create maximum value for our businesses, communities, societies and nations specially, during this window of rejuvenation, reimagination and reinvention.

In sum, do you have a “build back better” people strategy?

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The people strategy is a critical component of the overall business strategy. Brilliantly laid out vision-mission-values statements and objectives and key results go down the drain if executed poorly or in a mediocre way. The business and people strategy must be carried out in the context of the challenges that the company, community, society or nation faces.

The elements of this “build back better” people strategy are as follows:

Leadership: Have you defined the leadership model that will ensure sustainable success? This model should outline the required knowledge, skills, abilities, styles and mindsets for your leaders to be effective. Your leaders have to be complete: Leaders have to be results-focused, people-oriented, knowledge-driven and self-management conscious.

As we build back better, our people must be engaged more than ever. It is the leader’s responsibility to drive employee engagement. This will ensure alignment of our people with the strategic plan and enable every member of the organization to provide discretionary effort to go the extra mile.

Culture: Does your organization culture promote successful strategy execution? Organizations have a desired culture, usually defined as the way it does things to succeed, and an actual culture. The desired culture has to be defined in terms of values that the team members have to live by. Gaps, whether organizational or personal, should be spotted and addressed.

Organization: This refers to the structure and pattern of working relationships in an organization. Do you have the organization structure that will drive the achievement of your strategic plan? Are the necessary functions and activities existent and properly grouped? Are the number of levels optimized? Is there clarity around roles and reporting relationships?

Talent: Do you have the right quality and quantity of leadership and key talents that will drive strategy execution? Have you positioned your organization as an employer brand with a distinctive employee value proposition? A game plan to attract, retain and motivate your “must-keeps” for both leadership and key talents has to be developed and a robust talent review process has to be implemented.

Resources: The necessary level of resources and the corresponding proper allocation have to be determined. Prioritization is not easy when parts of the business drive their respective agendas and protect their turfs. The top leader’s role is to decide on what comes first and where to focus the spending.

Rewards: Positive discrimination has to be exercised. Superior performance has to be reinforced with superior rewards. Conversely, mediocre and poor performance are penalized with zero rewards or even sanctions. Pay for performance has to be coupled with an equitable distribution of the reward pool to address the growing social inequalities brought about by the pandemic.

Systems: End-to-end operating and information systems enable business leaders to make decisions that are timely, relevant and data-driven. Key business processes have to be turbocharged in terms of being simplified, streamlined and automated.

Policies: Obsolete or outdated legacy policies that were not established as a result of a proper diagnosis or not science- or data-based should be discarded. To ensure sustainable success, policies have to be reviewed regularly to reflect the changing times. Most importantly, beware of overly zealous policy making that can confine the playing field of your leaders—do not come up with policies on areas that restrict leaders to have some empowerment, flexibility, adaptability and agility.

When we are mindful, thoughtful and deliberate as we execute and implement our strategic plan, we can all be reasonably assured that our organizations are headed in the right direction. To build back better, we must work on enabling our people to give their level best to bring the organization to higher ground. INQThis article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or MAP. The author is member of the MAP Management and Human Capital Development Committee and the Founder and CEO of 1-HR.X Pte. Ltd.

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