HR Matters — Taking a Strategic Approach to People Management

A day in the life of an HR professional can result in a lot of drama!   People are highly unpredictable; and often a human resources professional is only pulled in once things are broken. My all-time record (so far!) during my HR career is having four employees cry in one week; and to be clear, they are not always women.  It is also not always tears of sorrow either; giving an employee a significant base pay increase has many times resulted in tears.  Relationship conflicts, poor job fit, workplace bullying, and work life imbalance are other common tear catalysts; and all clues to me, as an HR professional, that something is seriously broken and needs to be fixed.  I love HR!  It can make a huge difference in a person’s life to resolve a workplace issue.  From an employer’s perspective, if your people are not happy, you can be sure that staff productivity is suffering.

After working in human resources for over a decade, I have observed some common mistakes that employers repeatedly make when managing their workforce. I have also observed organizations skilled at executing effective human resources practices and, yes there are commonalities to be found.   Organizations that are most successful are those that have a well thought out human resources strategy and plan; and then properly execute this strategy over time through sound HR tactics and activities.

My role as Owner and Principal Consultant at, Higher Talent Inc. (HR Solutions) is to work with organizations to craft an HR strategy that makes sense for their organizational size, goals, and business strategy.  A well-designed HR strategy should consider and include the below key components:

  • As an employer, what is your employee value proposition (EVP)?  In other words, what is the balance of benefits received by employees to work performance?  How does your EVP compare to your competitors’ employee value proposition?   Because, let’s face it, in this market, you are competing for top talent.
  • What is your organizational structure and design?  Does your design facilitate an effective flow of communications where assigned job duties create a smooth work flow and sharing of information among staff?  It amazes me how many organizations have a duplication of work going on; and job descriptions that are out of date and slapped together with little thought given to job analysis or how works flows from one role to another; and where bottle necks may occur.
  • What is your compensation philosophy and position?  Do you want to match, exceed, or lag the market?  Your position may vary for base salary, health and dental benefits, other perks, RRSP contribution, etc.   Depending on the type of roles and whether a role is a highly specialized or a difficult to fill position, you may choose to target the higher end of the pay scale.  It is important to thoughtfully select a compensation strategy as it will directly influence your success at recruitment and retention.
  • Do you prioritize ongoing learning and development of your existing staff?  Employee development needs to be an ongoing activity in order to retain your high performing people.  It can include activities like formal class room training, mentoring/coaching, learning and development opportunities, special projects, job rotation, and leadership development programs.
  • Do you recognize your staff a minimum of four times a week? I know it sounds like a lot, but this is what it takes, especially with generational Y employees. An effective employee recognition program is critical as it drives retention.  Employee recognition includes both formal and informal recognition programs so that your people understand that their contributions at work do not go by unnoticed. One of my personal favorite types of employee recognition is additionally paid time off.  So if an employee has really gone above and beyond, “on the spot recognition” may include spontaneously giving them the next Friday afternoon off as paid personal time off from work.
  • Do your staff benefit from your annual performance management system and discussions? Performance management is a key retention factor as it is an opportunity for your people to learn and develop.  By having regular discussions, about what employees do really well, and areas that they can further develop, this is valuable feedback and feedback that your people crave.  The way that a performance system is designed indicates A LOT about an organization’s values and culture.  People want to know how their actions are perceived; and it is important that managers be well trained on how to facilitate these discussions candidly and appropriately.  If performance management is executed well, it helps drive overall performance and growth.
  • Your HR strategy also needs to consider an overall workforce plan.  Do you plan to grow over the next three to five years?  Do you need to identify a successor to the business; and have that knowledge transfer occur over time?  Perhaps the business is evolving and plan to add a new service line and you need to recruit and retain staff with entirely new and different skills to what you have in place today to deliver the new business line.   All of this needs to be built into an HR strategy and workforce plan so you can build it into your recruitment and training activities.

The bottom line is that HR strategy influences the type of people your business attracts and retains. Putting together a well -designed HR strategy starts by analyzing your current workforce and what additional skills and behaviours you may need to add to meet your business objectives.  Your people are the foundation of your business so make sure you give human resources the attention that it deserves.  If you maximize the ratio of tears of happiness to sorrow, this is a good indicator that you are moving in the right direction.

Susan PowerSusan Power is the Principal at Higher Talent Inc., a boutique human resources firm that specializes in strategic HR solutions. Higher Talent Inc. serves as a virtual human resources department for small to medium sized businesses. Their solutions fix problems such as high turnover, low employee morale, under-performing employees, role ambiguity, organizational design issues, and a failure to attract and retain talent with the ‘right skills’ and ‘behaviours’ necessary to succeed. Higher Talent prides itself on its ability to build high performance teams where people are happy and productive at work.  Their team of HR specialists help reduce the business and legal risks that come from poor HR practices.  Higher Talent’s HR On-Call specialists are Certified Human Resources Professionals; and fully respect the confidentiality, professionalism, and urgency of our clients’ HR requirements.  For more information on how Higher Talent can help resolve your HR issues, request a complimentary HR consultation at  You can also find Higher Talent Inc. on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and LinkedIn.



Filed under Uncategorized

2 responses to “HR Matters — Taking a Strategic Approach to People Management

  1. Carla May

    Excellent article Susan! You have outlined all the key components of a comprehensive HR Strategy and done a wonderful job explaining each piece!

  2. A fantastic article Susan. The tips are very helpful. Great job.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s