To be successful, companies should always be looking to the future and creating a plan for tomorrow. You may think that the planning is restrained to corner offices and the upper echelon on management. Actually, human resources has an important role to play. In fact, they can affect every phase of the management planning system’s important processes from setting strategic and tactical plans to people development to operational processes. Here’s how HR professionals can use their prowess at planning to positively impact the organization.

HR Contributes to the Company Vision and Mission

Prior to establishing strategies it is important to define an organizational vision and ensure all employees understand it and have an opportunity to contribute towards it. This vision starts with a described end state. The HR manager needs to explain what the organization will be like in one to two years or the timeframe of the planning horizon. It is important for management to define other elements of this end state. For example, what will the customers say? What will the employees say? What goals do you expect to be achieved? This ensures that everyone on the team understands and works in the same direction towards implementation and development of the vision. Next is mission. It should describe what the organization does and how to help everyone understand the main purpose and objective of the organization.

HR Helps Establish Values and Behavior

What is most important in this environment? Values should be clear, communicated, and role modeled. For example, perhaps one of the organization’s values is customer service quality. This should be defined clearly. HR should encourage managers to role model organizational values. Three to five values are quite enough, if defined clearly, and people are able to follow.

What are the expected behaviors in the organization? They should align nicely under each value. Behaviors aligned to core values, which are taught and role modeled throughout the organization, give a powerful lesson and template for people to follow. Without this consistency in organizational life, decisions are made in an unstructured way without paying attention to the overall goals of the organization.

HR Examines Environmental Analysis

Once the organization has defined the basic framework for how it will operate going forward, then it is time to collect data for the planning process. HR should drive this process. This should be at a minimum an annual process that’s driven by routine processes throughout the year. It’s important to collect organizational assumptions. What are the overall assumptions that will drive the planning activities that everyone can agree on? For example, the company will grow 10 percent in the next year, add eight locations, and hire 67 people. They will phase out some technology and bring in another technology. With clearly listed assumptions, management can make plans that make sense.

HR Should be Aware of Customer and Economic Trends

It’s also important for management to look at customers and their objectives: What services and or products do they appear to be using more of or less of? What other factors of customer behavior can be explained and written down to help the planning process? What kind of customers are fading out, buying less, and what customer base is growing? These questions should understand the reasons why.

In any plan, the external economy must be taken into consideration. Where is the growth, the decline, and why? How will new laws, policies, and external factors affect the organization? There should be a clear statement in the plan around the economy, and how it affects the organization in a positive or negative way.

HR Must Look Inside

This is perhaps HR’s most intregal role in the planning process. HR professionals are responsible for asking:

  • How are the skills of the current employee base matching up to the new plans?
  • Which skills are emerging and will require new educational plans and tools?
  • Which skills are declining and will require re-training for people to shift to new areas of higher return?

Managers should create a database to understand the strengths and areas of interests of their people. This will help when the process of reviewing emerging and declining skills is underway. Matched with a database this enables a powerful knowledge resource about the organization’s most critical resource!

It’s important at this point of the plan to survey all people and understand their ideas and what they feel is going right versus wrong. The data should be available to everybody and, more important, the action steps and recommendations always visible. Following this overall process-based planning approach, the budget can be set. Too many budgets get set prior to any planning and as a result new goals are established without clear basis. The budget should be set as a result of customer feedback, strategic direction, and available funding!

HR Enables a Nested Planning System

The above enables the development of a companywide set of one- to three-year strategies, one-year tactics, and quarterly plans, which can be set and shared. Each plan element should have an owner and clear metrics should be established, which describe what the goal is, when it is expected, and what metric will represent success. HR managers should make sure as many people as possible contribute to the annual plans. Plan leaders should hold regular update meetings open to all employees. When people know both plans and status on a regular basis, it will open up communications and will enable people to feel more vested at work. At the same time, it will help to move plans forward.

When human resource professionals look at the management planning process as a system, it helps to prevent decisions made without data and, just as important, includes everyone in the process from customer to company leadership.

The Big Picture

Management is a system and it is important to understand that when a decision is made, the entire system gets affected. It is important for management and HR professionals to give visibility to progress through the year via operational reviews while making them a routine process. Finally, placing an emphasis on people development in the plan process will ensure that people are moving forward and in alignment with organizational plans. Management planning takes discipline, quality thinking, and involvement. As a result, the chances are greater that business goals will be achieved!

Craig Nathanson


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