Aligning People with Business Plans
As you begin your business planning for the upcoming year, it is good to reflect on good planning practices and how best to align and engage employees to bring about your desired results.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What are your Company’s key strategic initiatives and priorities for next year? How will you roll out these plans to your customers & employees? What are the Company’s objectives for next year?
- How will you get employees engaged to implement business plans and achieve desired objectives?
- What are your resource needs? Do you have the right staffing levels and people? What training is needed? What new purchases are required? What materials or other resource needs do you have?
- Are employees clear about their performance expectations? Do they know how their performance is measured? Do they know their key performance indicators (KPIs)?
- Do you know your employees’ career aspirations and plans? What are your employees’ training and development needs? What competencies or skills are needed?
- Are employee goals aligned with business strategy and objectives?
- What employee results, behaviors and goals are needed to bring about desired strategy and objectives?
If you are like most organizations, it takes some kind of formal planning and review process to make sure these discussions, planning, goal setting, and alignment actions are taking place.
The starting point for business planning is to have a clear view of where you are going, how you are different from the competition, and what will take to get where you want to go. Many organizations go through an annual SWOT analysis where they critically review their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, looking both at their market and within their organization. Next, they build plans, set priorities, and align their resources to make the most impact on the organization.
One of our clients holds a company-wide meeting, making a game out of obtaining lessons learned from last year and ideas to make improvements. To make it fun, they give everyone who makes a useful comment a poker card. The employee at the end with the best hand wins a prize. Next, the leaders meet to both evaluate the employee comments and analyze performance in all key areas of the business. The output of this review guides the creation of their key business initiatives. Clearly define your top three or four business initiatives for the upcoming year. Avoid the temptation of attempting to accomplish too many things. Losing focus and going in too many directions at once lessens your overall effectiveness. As a management group, with input from employees, identify the major priorities and strategic initiatives for the year. Also, define overall business sales, costs and resource need to accomplish plans. Define specific business objectives that, once accomplished, will achieve your desired strategy. You will likely have goals and targets in sales, cost control, profit margins and other areas like quality, development, product introduction and so on. Next, create plans to communicate and roll out these plans to your customers and employees. Clearly define your vision for these initiatives, outlining where you are now (Current State) and where you are going (Desire State). The more clearly you can detail the picture, the more likely it will become a reality. Create a clear business case for the initiatives and begin planning to get employees engaged in implementing the actions needed to achieve desired plans and results.
Once you are clear on what the overall business will accomplish, begin planning within each department. Create detailed department-by-department plans, target objectives, actions and scorecards. Define people and other resource needs to accomplish desired plans. Set budgets and spending plans. Plan out your labor needs, including the number needed, skills and training needs.
PEOPLE ALIGNMENT & EXECUTION
The best-made plans will fall flat if they are not It is also good not to set more than three to five per quarter, keeping them focused in areas that really matter.
- Score Keeping: Keep score on performance for the Company, for the department, work teams and individuals. Define and track key performance indicators that, when achieved, bring about desired results. Develop ways to communicate the scores and results. It is also good to do a formal performance review at least once a year. Leaders will want to do informal discussions with employees as needed, at least monthly.
- Recognition: Celebrate small wins along the way, recognizing accomplishments and behaviors by department and individual. Have formal and informal recognition
- Accountability: Hire people who are personally accountable. Expect people to achieve their effectively aligned and executed by employees.
It is objectives, action plans and KPIs. Confront your people who make the real difference in setting you apart from your competition and bringing about your desired business plans. The following are useful techniques to align and engage your people as you execute business planning:
- Communication: Clearly communicate business strategy, showing how it will involve and impact employees. Give employees line-of- site, showing them how they fit into the plans and how they make a difference.
- Involvement: Where possible, obtain employee involvement when defining actions, goals and scorecard areas. This helps get better measurements and obtains their buy-in to bring about desired
- Objectives: Establish a cascading objective system. Starting with the Company’s objectives, the President sets objectives that she or he owns and that achieve the Company’s objectives. Department leaders then set objectives that achieve the President’s objectives in their primary areas of responsibility. Finally, employees set objectives that achieve their department leader’s objectives, their job description, and key performance indicators. It may not be possible to roll out objectives to every member in the organization. Make sure objectives are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-oriented and Time-bound. Most organizations find it more effective to set quarterly objectives that are reviewed and reinforced by performers, coaching them to make needed revisions. Coach, reinforce and communicate regularly to hold yourself, the Company, departments and individuals responsible to bring about your business plans for the year. No excuses, victimization, or rationalization; only results.
Effective business planning takes an organized effort, involvement from key players, and engagement and accountability by everyone to make them a reality. Align people with your plans through objectives, communication and involvement, then reinforce and hold everyone accountable for results. Then celebrate the wins together.
By Ken Spencer, President, HR Service, Inc.