HR Strategy Guide

Megan Thompson · December 12, 2022

We live in an increasingly confusing and chaotic world. Civil unrest, social change, political toxicity, and physical health have created even more challenging conditions for HR, managers and employees.

While the world changes around us, the last thing HR should do is remain the same. For our businesses and our people to succeed HR must find a very simple, straightforward framework to organise the chaos of this world.

We’ve collected all the key information from our latest webinars with Dave Ulrich and Lucy Adams into a handy guide to help you inform your HR strategy in 2023.

Quick links

A modern HR

Your organisation and culture

Leadership practices

Building talent and driving human capability

Uniting HR, company culture, managers and employees


A modern HR

Historically, HR has been an uninspiring role defined by conformity, compliance, processes, service, and a one-size-fits-all approach. Before Covid-19, many HR departments were still doing the same things they did in the 1980s and 1990s.

In our recent webinar, “The Future of HR in a Disrupted World”, Lucy Adams joked that just 8 years ago having the two words “disruptive” and “HR” sent people into shock. Now, HR is a much more creative role, and HR leaders have more confidence and the ability to demonstrate innovation, possibility, and credibility in the boardroom.

Similarly, Dave Ulrich has reinforced the often forgotten, but absolutely vital role that HR plays in your business’s commercial success. In fact, Dave argues that the single most valuable thing HR can do for its employees is create an organisation that succeeds in the marketplace. Why? Because if a company fails in the marketplace, there is no workplace. We can begin inside or outside, but the two must be connected.

This means HR must move away from detailed rules and policies to free HR from acting as the compliance officer, the policeman or the parent and instead feel enabled to focus on how the big-picture HR strategy connects to the organisation’s needs.

Big, bulky processes are being rejected and instead, modern HR leaders are embracing the way that human beings think, feel, behave and are motivated. Put simply, if you have the right HR systems, practices, and people in place, HR can focus on their active role.

For example, Dave Ulrich argues that HR competencies have changed. Now their job requirements are to:

  • Accelerate the business
  • Advance human capability
  • Mobilise information and make decisions based on data
  • Foster collaboration
  • Simplify complexity

“We’re not doing HR simply to do HR. We’re doing it to advance the business and create value for others.” – Dave Ulrich


Your organisation and culture

Does your company have the right organisation, capability, workplace, or team? Dave Ulrich’s human capability research uncovered that having the right organisation is 3-4x more important than having the right people.

That’s because culture is absolutely key to success. But what exactly is company culture?

According to Dave Ulrich, culture lies at the heart of your organisation. It can be shaped by the organisation but is ultimately driven by your people. Cultural thinking evolves from understanding the values, norms and behaviours that employees and leaders embody, the systems and climate of work, the patterns, rules and ways of working.

Therefore, you must ensure that the values, systems, norms and strategies in your organisation are aligned and reflect what you are actually doing to succeed in the marketplace.


Leadership practices

Successful organisations are seeing a movement away from HR owning the process of employee engagement, wellbeing and performance management, according to Lucy Adams. Now, these strategies are being put in the hands of managers who are closest to the action and can actually have the biggest impact. When this is aligned with role-modelling from senior executives organisations can really thrive.

Adams finds that the best strategy is to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach and use “insight to give leaders the ability to flex and adapt their style and their approach based on what makes their employees and team members tick”. But how can you gather and present this data in a practical, actionable way for your managers? Learn about WeThrive surveys →

Dave Ulrich suggests that initiatives must be piecemeal if they are to have any long-term impact. Lucy Adams agreed that small, bite-sized learning “shots”, action recommendations and goals have a far greater influence on managers than an all-day training session.

Starting your managers with compact, incremental changes, and one relevant action they could take in five minutes will shrink the change and encourage your managers to actually contribute to their team.

“As an HR professional, my job is to help leaders make progress” – Dave Ulrich

When you meet with leadership teams, how do you help them to identify their strengths and weaknesses?

In “How to Empower your Leaders to Create High-Performance Teams” Dave Ulrich shared the 5 basic skills he believes build successful leaders:

1. Strategist: do they have a strategy to shape the future?

Your leaders must create confidence in the future strategy and direction of the business by establishing a compelling mission/vision that their teams support and buy into.

2. Executor: do they make things happen?

Your leaders need to deliver on promises, which creates a more positive work environment and culture of trust.

3. Talent Manager: do they manage people and keep them engaged?

High-quality managers are empathetic, emotionally connected, energised and use their own experience to relate to their team members.

4. Human capital developer: do they build human capital tomorrow?

Your managers must be empowered and invested in the next generation by making sure others feel better about themselves.

5. Personal proficiency: do they invest in themselves?

It is crucial for good leaders to ensure they are taking care of themselves so that they can more effectively care for their team.


Building talent and driving human capability

When you’ve got the right foundations in your HR department, company culture and leadership teams your organisation needs to ensure the right individual competence, workforce, and skills.

Competence

The first step to developing talent is building agency and accountability for your employees. You want to bring the right people into your organisation and move them throughout the organisation so they ultimately end up in a position to succeed.

However, HR is often far too paternalistic and can prevent employees from taking these necessary steps to develop their knowledge and skills.

Lucy Adams’ EACH model talks about the importance of treating employees as adults and avoiding the traps of acting as the ‘caring parent’ who spoon-feeds their employees with “wash your hands” notices or the ‘critical parent’ with all sorts of policies and rules in place in an attempt to protect the organisation from badly-behaving employees.

She suggests that “what we need to do is to create an environment where our people can take care of themselves and take ownership of their career.” Dave Ulrich agrees that your employees must be agents and responsible for doing their best and managing their own employee experience.

Successful organisations like VISTA Print, River Island, and Adobe, have decided they’re not going to sit their people down at the end of the year and give them an “end of school report” like they’re a child.

Lucy explains this approach is crucial for development because it’s an individual’s responsibility as an adult to have regular and ongoing grown-up conversations about how they’re perceived and the contributions they’re making. To achieve this, it is imperative that employees feel safe and empowered to contribute, challenge, ask for feedback and learn from their mistakes.

In fact, 93% of WeThrive clients that deliver employee engagement action recommendations directly to their employees see an improvement in engagement after their first survey.

“WeThrive has been talking about the same thing for the last 10 years. It’s all about the individual.” – Lucy Adams

Commitment

The next step is ensuring that your people feel connected to the organisation’s values. Employees who feel engaged and have an emotional connection to work are more enthusiastic, create high-quality work, and are more efficient and productive.

Therefore it is vital that HR and managers play a role in ensuring that employees have a strong sense of connection and belonging to the organisation. For example, managers can share their personal feelings and experiences and celebrate individuals’ successes. HR can introduce initiatives that their people actually value.

Dave Ulrich makes the importance of mobilising information and decision-making based on data clear. This is key to understanding if your people’s values connect to your organisation.

For example, WeThrive’s employee engagement survey asks your people if they understand how their work ties into the company vision or how it benefits their customers. Our intelligent survey digs deeper to identify exactly where the deficit is and delivers bite-size action recommendations for your managers and employees to better understand the link between their roles and the bigger picture.

This ensures you can create the right conditions for engagement by improving trust, commitment, contribution and challenge.

Contribution

The final step is to encourage growth to become better people and employees. If your people are to succeed and feel that they are a part of the business then HR and line managers must provide opportunities for learning, growth and involvement in the business.

Identifying where your people have knowledge gaps and where there are opportunities for growth will help managers provide the right type of support, build a picture of the future to boost their morale and revive a sense of purpose.

WeThrive’s engagement survey measures ‘knowledge’, ‘skills’, ‘resources’ and ‘competence’ to identify exactly where the gaps are – and what you can do to plug them.

“We need to focus engagement much more around the relationship with the line manager because that’s where the bulk of our engagement comes from. But also putting it into the hands of employees themselves as opposed to doing engagement to them.” – Lucy Adams


Uniting HR, company culture, managers and employees

All four of these key business factors contribute to a successful workplace. Dave Ulrich refers to this as his “human capability framework”, and his latest research shows the huge impact this can have on business success.

For example:

  • 44% of employee productivity is predicted based on human capability
  • 26% of cash flow is predicted based on human capability
  • 25% of future value is predicted based on human capability

However, developing a human capability framework for your business won’t happen overnight. To start on the front foot, you must have a baseline understanding of how your people, managers and leadership team feel.

Lucy Adams advised that successful businesses were finding “HR is beginning to provide [more] choice based around real insight and information” to individual employees. That’s where WeThrive can help. Our engagement survey delivers simple, clear and actionable insights instantly.

Book a demo to learn more about how WeThrive can help you build a successful human capability framework.