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Creating an agile people strategy

Aug 18, 2019

Niamh O’Brien shares her insights on how to create and embed an agile people strategy in your company.

I have read many white papers, articles and research documents that talk through the changing landscape of our working world. Workplace trends, disruptors, AI, smart working and gig workers are all topics that have been dissected and analysed, but what does it really mean for employers? More importantly, how can employers ensure that their business strategy is supported by a robust people strategy that not only aligns with their strategic direction but also facilitates their business objectives people?

Creating your people strategy

Any people strategy should be approached with clearly defined objectives, focusing on the key issues that apeople strategy is looking to resolve. It is also essential that the strategy not only sits within the overarching business strategy but that it can act as the engine behind what the business is looking to achieve.

Technology, processes and the existing talent pool will all be considerations in the implementation of a people strategy. Technology not only influences the work that employees are doing but can also change the full working environment by facilitating remote working, thereby enabling and facilitating a wider talent pool. Processes and procedures are being streamlined via technology and the information flow that employers can now receive ensures that the agility to realign strategic direction has to be matched with a people strategy that is both agile and future-focused.

Talent is still a very real challenge for the majority of companies, according to a recent CIPD survey. Over 84% of companies are struggling with skills shortages, and accountancy isn’t immune to this. Despite an ongoing movement towards a flexible workforce, the speed at which companies need to move to ensure they have the talent, resources and direction required for sustainable growth can be difficult to master.

While the challenges for employers are ever increasing, they are being matched in pace by the demands of the workforce. Employees are looking for meaningful work, flexible working options, personal development opportunities and a working environment that facilitates upskilling and training. A successful people strategy has to plan and facilitate the evolving demands of the wider workforce.

Embedding your people strategy

Once a people strategy has been defined, how does a company ensure that it is embedding this strategy into the business? As with any strategy, the real challenge often lies in bringing it to life. It is impossible to talk about a people strategy without touching on the increasingly topical subject of an Employer Value Proposition and bringing your EVP to life is a crucial element of rolling out a people strategy.

The only way to gauge an active and engaged EVP is through measurement. I have seen many company EVPs that are hugely impressive, innovative and ambitious but then spoken to actual employees who are not seeing the stated EVP in their actual working environment. The real challenge of a people strategy is making sure it is both measurable and measured, ensuring that a cyclical model of assessment and realignment keeps the strategy focused and relevant.

Future-proofing your people strategy

In order for a people strategy to be successful, it must span the entire talent ecosystem, including permanent employees, temporary or contingent staff, contractors, consultants and gig workers. By considering all staff and mapping flexible solutions to plan and fill skills gaps, companies will be able to plan their people strategy not just for the immediate term, but for the future, as well. The longevity of a people strategy demands a flexible, agile plan that can support future growth.

Niamh O’Brien is the Director of Talent Management in BDO.