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Immunize your 2021 HR plan in 5 steps. Do not wait until next year!

Recently, I was speaking with the CEO of a medium-sized company about her organization’s strategic plan. The plan was built in 2018 as a five-year outlook on the business’s operations, customers, financials, and more. The company was on track to achieve its objectives. However, the pandemic put a sudden stop to many of these plans in 2020. After several months struggling with making operational ends meet, arranging employees to work both from home and office, and still serving customers in a safe manner, the organization learned to adapt and adjust: it successfully transferred 50% of its services online. Now, as the year-end fast approaches, the CEO is reviewing her strategic plan; she realized that the organization needs to refresh the plan for 2021. Furthermore, to better support the changes, its HR plan also needs to be refreshed.

A good strategic plan needs to be flexible and is not meant to be written in stone.

Step 1: Start by refreshing your organizational strategic plan.

  • As you review the year 2020, does it become apparent that the entire business has changed? Are our actions allowing us to complete our mission and make our vision into reality?

  • Given the changes, what strategic objectives should we set for 2021? What external changes and trends do we anticipate? How do we maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace?

  • What internal changes do we forecast?

  • What do we need to keep, increase, reduce, eliminate, or create?

Step 2: Align the HR plan with the refreshed organizational strategic plan.

  • Do we have the right infrastructure and talent in place to reach the strategic objectives for 2021? This requires organizations to honestly examine their talent pools’ competencies and capabilities.

  • After examining the talent pool, what part of the HR plans should we keep, increase, reduce, eliminate or create? One trend I noticed is that employers not only assess their talents’ technical competencies, but also their mentality, especially their ability to remain positive under pressure.

  • How do we assess the results?

Step 3: Involve the key stakeholders when refreshing the HR plan.

  • If you have a large HR team, then getting representatives from each of the HR specialty areas to share insights would be very helpful. If you have a small HR team, then having a few key stakeholders from within the organization would help you consider multiple perspectives.

  • When gathering the HR and stakeholder group together, questions to discuss are:

○ Have we done the work in the most effective way?

○ Have we achieved the results we anticipated?

○ What can we start, stop, or continue doing in 2021?

○ Were the stakeholders satisfied? Are their needs going to be changed in 2021?

A group of employees planning and working together
Business Planning

Step 4: Re-define the baseline for performance measurement.

  • Baseline data is information on past performance that provides a base for comparison for future performance. Collect information from both primary and secondary sources to set your baseline:

Primary source:

■ A good strategy is to ask the HR stakeholders how HR can better support them in the coming year.

■ An outsider view is valuable in helping HR to reflect and to adjust.

Secondary source:

■ Review existing HR benchmarks, surveys and achievements. Are they still relevant?

■ Monitor customer analytics, industry trends and opportunities. Is there anything to adopt?

Step 5: Don’t forget to communicate the refreshed HR plan.

  • The refreshed plan doesn’t exist until it is well communicated and understood by staff who will execute it. Make a list of people who will be impacted by the updated plan.

  • Use multiple communication channels (take advantage of technologies) at your workplace, but be mindful of employees’ communication preferences given their jobs, locations, demographics, and special needs.

  • Leaders' demonstration of their commitment to the refreshed objectives is also critical. Employees tend to be inspired by leaders who “walk the talk” and carry the refreshed plan “on their sleeves”.

  • There is no such thing as excessive communication.

  • And let’s celebrate the successes.

Businesses should get into the habit of revisiting their strategic plan periodically, and especially after major changes. One thing that I have learned from the pandemic is that it is important for businesses to have an overarching guiding plan, but adjustments are going to be inevitable.


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