Strategic people Alignment  

Achieving Strategic Alignment

The key to execution is that all the constituents of your business are aligned to your strategy, and are working in the same direction along with the same priorities. The constituents include monies, shareholders, people, processes and external partners.

Strategic people Alignment

People alignment is achieved at various levels. This includes Jobs and Skills, Goal-sheets, Learning and Development and Rewards.

Employee constituency alignment is foremost in your execution. If minds and hearts are aligned, rest will follow. The people alignment is not only limited to your immediate strategy focus, but is also governed by the overall direction of business environment.

For example, today's environment is demanding companies:

  • To think global in terms of their markets or at least in terms of moving their supply chains to more cost effective locations.
  • To work with new knowledge worker paradigm.

Therefore, while you may not have it in your immediate strategy to globalize, you may be building your people agenda around globalization. As aligning people agenda has its lead time, an organization can be pro-active to re-orient its people capital in the right direction.

Here are the factors over which one will align the people factor.

Setting the context in the planning phase itself

The people alignment around following factors, is essentially driven by of capabilities and organization design imperatives as defined in the strategy document. A strategy document (at enterprise, functional and sub-functional level) will be ideally stating:

  • Capabilities, which we need to build, to enhance and to remove. For example:
    • We need to add 3rd party sales channel management capability, as company plans to start selling through 3rd party channels..
    • We need to enhance premium product servicing capability, as company plans to have greater revenue proportion through premium products.
    • We need to remove network product Design capability, as company plans to move out of network product design.
  • Mind-sets, which we need to build, to enhance and to eliminate. For example:
    • We need to have X products are high potential products mind-set for the products which our employees feel have matured and there is no more juice in them.
    • We need to enhance effectiveness in diversity mind set, for an organization which plans to go global.
    • We need to eliminate analyze till perfection and no-risk mind-set to enable faster and more aggressive execution.
  • Key organization roles at senior levels
    • We need a role to drive quality agenda
    • We need a role to drive the data management in an organization.
    • We need a role to drive 3rd party distribution strategy
    • We need a role to establish business process management practice to support operational units.

Apart from the above, the business plan and strategy blueprint, points to various hard and soft-skills which a management will build within his team to achieve his goals.

Job and Skill Requirements Alignment

An effective organization will review its organizational design and structure frequently and make necessary tweaks as per the strategic execution needs. One would do the review at various levels:

  • Organization Structures

The following questions will need to be answered- Does my organization structure:

    • Have all the requisite roles and skill inventory to deliver the strategy?
    • Have adequate number of headcounts for each role to deliver upon the strategy?
    • Have right roles reporting or responsible to the right roles? For example- should product design be reporting to marketing or sales?
    • Have all inter-linkages and matrix reporting well-defined and in-line with the goal-sheets?
    • Have the responsibilities and expectations across the roles well defined?
  • Job and Roles Descriptions

This takes the organization structure to the next level of detail. Job descriptions are the ones which are your key vehicle for putting the right people in the right job. Job descriptions have a standard format in terms of:

    • Job Purpose
    • Detailed job role and responsibility
    • Key linkages
    • Team size and reporting structure
    • Soft skills
    • Hard skills
    • General profile expectations of candidates

As you create the job description one can ensure that the skills and expectations which are pertaining to the strategy are well-articulated. For example, if I am hiring a head of sales, I may specifically highligh the skill of 'selling high quality premium-price products to high networth customers', if my strategy is to go for premium products.

  • Interview format and competency questions

The last stop on the alignment around jobs and skills, is the interview format and competency questions around the key jobs. The key questions for hiring for the jobs or roles which are impacted by the organization strategy need to be reviewed and updated. Every manager and interview panel will be having its own flexibility to do diligence on these positions. However, if one is able to list out the reference questions, it helps.

  • Reviewing and re-evaluating the suitability of the existing office-bearers

As some jobs and skill expectations change due to strategic shifts, one needs to re-evaluate the fitment of the existing role-bearers in terms of their suitability and potential for the roles. It can have the following outcomes:

    • Maintaining the individual in the given role if he has a potential and creating a development plan and support systems to ensure the success of the individual. For example, if an organization now expects business process design skill with a certain role in 'operations' function, it can include it in their training agenda.
    • If it is felt that the role bearer may not have the potential to meet-up to the revised expectations of the role, an organization may post the job to identify a new candidate, while building the career for the existing role-bearer

Individual Goal Alignment

This is the most granular articulation of the strategy of an organization, whereby an individual understands on what he or she has to continue doing, stop doing or do differently. This categorization is both in the leadership competencies (in simpler words- the soft skills) and the targets to which an individual has to deliver. As you define the goals of an individual, one would refer to the job description and the overall capabilities list in your strategy document.

As most of the readers will be aware, Individual goal-sheet is a kind of performance agreement between an individual and the organization. It generally has a mix of the following components.

  • The goals, timelines and measures of success.
  • High level tasks and check-points around those tasks
  • Statement on if the individual is going to the owner of the goal or will be playing the support role.
  • Support to be provided by the organization for the individual to succeed in this goal.

TIP- As a manager and his team-member finalize the goal sheet, it is imperative for the manager to categorically point out on what is different and what has changed?

Learning and Development Alignment

Integral to the goal-sheet, is the learning and development plan. Given the goal-sheets and the job description, the L&D plan will be created, to enable an individual to succeed in his role.

TIP- L&D plan is not only the formal training plan (as it is misinterpreted many a times). It includes the learning an individual may have from self-study and also on the job learning. Some best practice companies have an indicative ratio of 10% formal training, 20% self-learning and 70% on the job learning.

TIP- L&D plan is not only for the immediate goal-sheet. It is also driven by the longer term needs of an organization and also the potential of a person. For example- an individual in US may be sent on a short term assignment to a place in Europe to get a global perspective. This is driven by the organization strategy to increasingly globalize itself over next few years.

There is another level (apart from goal-sheet), where the training alignment happens. An evolved organization will have a standard set of training programs, and training goals. These sets can be driven by the strategy.

For example if the strategy of an organization to invest significantly in six sigma program, it can set an organization level objective of having 60% of employees trained on white-belt, 15% on green-belt and 5% on black-belt. These enterprise level goals are cascades to the management team, which works on meeting the target within their own function.

Another example is changing the standard training modules. For example- Let us say that a company is driven by the globalization strategy. One can have a training module on understanding and working with different cultures or e-mail and phone communication, in the repertoire of the training programs available to the employees.

Rewards and Incentives Alignment

Rewards and incentives are always among the strongest drivers to achieve people alignment around strategy. One can achieve it through various methods like:

  • Creating special bonus pool for initiatives, which are key for your strategy.
  • Create team bonus for natural teams which are working on strategic focus areas.
  • Create higher variable pay for job categories which are critical for the strategy and retention pool.

We already have a field-TIP around this subject. Please refer aligning rewards and incentives to your strategy