The question that’s often top of mind for CEOs and HR Leaders is “how do we embed people strategies into our organization while at the same time growing our business”. My answer is always the same, “you will compromise on your strategic ambitions UNLESS you make time for people and do it thoughtfully and strategically”.

The bad news about lack of investment in the people agenda is that you’re probably getting a decent amount of scrutiny from 3 of your key constituents:- 1.  Your BOARD OF DIRECTORS – particularly in the area of Succession Planning. They want to have confidence in the vitality of the talent pipeline. If you have gaps in your succession, how are you answering the tough questions from your board?  2. Your EMPLOYEES, they expect you to be investing in this agenda and in them as employees, particularly the new entrants to the workplace, the Digital Natives. 3. Your CUSTOMERS – they expect (rightfully so) you to be putting forward your best talent to execute on their needs and that you’re making the right investments to be able to deliver on your customer commitments.

Here’s the GOOD NEWS! There’s a couple of proven strategies:-

(i) OWNERSHIP – This is not a bottom up deal. You need strong ownership from the top of the house. My dear friend Linda Tan from Singapore offered me advice a number of years ago that I’ve always carried with me…. “don’t work harder than the sponsor otherwise you’ll find yourself pushing a wet noodle”. Creating a shared agenda between the business and HR is a critical starting point.

(ii) TAKE TIME TO DESIGN THE RIGHT SYSTEM – Inextricably link your people strategy to your business strategy; It can’t be “business then people” they have to be developed simultaneously. This will ensure you differentiate and prioritize your investment in the right places. Curate processes and create tools that work for your culture and resonate with your leaders. This will ensure a smoother scalable implementation. If you have a ‘data oriented’ culture, create a ‘data oriented’ system. If you have a creative, innovative culture, create a system that has these hallmarks. It has to have strong face validity in the eyes of your leaders.

(iii) CREATE A MOVEMENT – Find advocates, missionaries, mavens and leverage your toughest critics. You know who they are! Bring all of these leaders along on the journey. They will help you modify and adjust your system, and they will also help to build a following. Pacing and sequencing is important. Who goes first matters. Who goes next is critical.

(iv) DELIVER + EXECUTE ON YOUR COMMITMENT – Don’t ever compromise on “doing what you said you’ll do”. You will lose credibility fast. I’ve seen this particularly with CEO’s who start with great gusto and then get sidetracked with other business priorities. Start small, gain quick wins, build momentum and execute, execute, execute.

(v) BUILD CAPABILITY – You have got to build capability in your organization to make this a sustainable process. Build capability in skills and in process to make the system work. Think about ways to build the skills THROUGH the work and the journey.

Having a robust, well developed long term plan for people that runs alongside your business strategy can be a differentiator for your business. It will ensure you have incredibly engaged and motivated employees and clients that keep coming back.

Audrey McGuckin consults with top CEOs and HR Executives to solve their toughest and most complex people and leadership challenges. To contact Audrey on how she can assist you and your organization, contact us or message her at